There is little fear here that a new American president will mean a radical shift in US policy toward the Middle East. This disappoints some -- like a PLO official who hd despaired at both candidates -- but it gives rise to hope for many.
"We understand that American policy is a mainstream," an Egyptian Foreign Ministry offical says. "There are differences in style according to who holds the presidency, but the basic goals remain the same."
Hard-line Israeli nationalists drew comfort from the election result, hoping for a lessening of American constraints on Israeli settlements in occupied Arab territory.
For months leaders in the Middle East have studied Mr. Reagan's proposals and met his aides. What they see is an opportunity for expanding on Mr. Carter's openings with the resolute leadership Mr. Reagan has promised.
This is not to suggest that Reagans's victory reassures Arabs. "With Mr. Reagan there are still some areas of concern to us," says Mansour Hassan, a close aid to President Sadat, referring to Mr. Reagan's staunch support of Israel, "but we know that much is said in the course of a campaign and we hope for some change once he takes office. No president can see the world as black and white."
An Israeli journalist observes that his countrymen are looking forward to Republican foreign-affairs management. He fondly recalls Henry Kissinger's dramatic and effective "shuttle diplomacy" and predicts a "major breakthrough" in the stalled taks over Palestinian autonomy if the Reagan administration follows a Kissinger-style approach.
Egyptians and Israelis alike seem to welcome the idea of a regional policy directed by Henry Kissinger or one of his associates. Mr. Kissinger is liked by Mr. Sadat and respected by Mr. Begin. But the sense of not knowing who will be running the show causes both sides to continually ask American travelers who the next secretary of state and national security adviser might be.
"The best thing about what happened on Nov. 4," as an Egyptian involved in Palestinian autonomy negotiations put it, "is that the American election ended today, and now we can expect attention to the problems at hand."