The summit meeting between Egypt's President Anwar al-Sadat and Israel's Prime Minister Menachim Begin -- to be held in Aswan, Egypt from Jan. 7 to 10 -- was originally scheduled to chart the next phase of peacemaking between the two countries.
But the Soviet thrust into Afghanistan has put the Israelis on the alert. Experts close to Prime Minister Begin assume that Mr. Sadat is no less alarmed by Moscow's provocative action than Mr. Begin.
They therefore expect the two statesmen to revise the priorities of their agenda and explore thoroughly two aspects of the situation in their area:
* How Israel and Egypt can best help to arrest Soviet expansionism in the Middle East.
* How the two countries can help prevent the further growth of extremist radicalism in the region.
Israeli analysis of the significance of the Afghan crisis goes further than the apprehensions already expressed by Washington. While agreeing that the Soviets could spread out into Pakistan, Israeli experts regard the possibility of an eventual move into Iran, or any other weakened Middle Eastern country, as equally possible.
Such Soviet expansion could come at any future date when the United States once again was preoccupied by some incapacitating problem.
The appraisal here adds that even if Moscow does not continue expanding militarily into the Middle East, the Afghan walkover is establishing the Soviets as an irresistible force in many a mind. True, worldwide protests are loud and promise to become louder. But otherwise, the patriots at the capital of Kabul are left alone to face the determined invader.
On the Middle East scene, the Soviet action in Afghanistan, and the Western response thereto, is being evaluated as an encouragement to enemies of regional stability. For Messrs. Sadat and Begin, this opens the prospect for additional threats to their peace efforts. And for the West, and particularly the United States, this development is expected to cause further obstacles in fostering or even exercising their legitimate interests in the Mideast.