Israel is rapidly losing the hearts and minds of the Egyptian public. This is clearly evident from Egyptian press commentary and individual remarks following the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights.
''When Israel made a peace treaty with Egypt,'' says one Foreign Ministry official, ''it opened a bank account with the Egyptian public. They are drawing from that account very fast, and reaching the point of overdraft.''
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin's latest action has presented Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak with his first serious foreign policy challenge. At the same time it has given Camp David critics in Egypt the kind of ammunition used to undermine the late Anwar Sadat's credibility with the Egyptian public.
While Sadat was alive, his Egyptian critics blamed him personally, as one of the architects of the Camp David accords, for belligerent Israeli acts aimed at other Arab countries, saying the peace treaty had served to strengthen Israel's hand.
With Mubarak, however, it is accepted that Camp David is his inherited offspring, and his most important task now is to get the rest of Sinai back.
The anger and the blame are being placed squarely on Israel's shoulders.
''It casts some doubt now on the (Israeli) peace movement,'' says the Egyptian official. ''Where are the so-called doves in Israeli politics?''
Many observers in Cairo interpret Mr. Begin's sudden move on the Golan question as a sort of test for Mubarak before the final withdrawal takes place.
''We are a patient people,'' says the official. ''We can stand provocations.''
The first reaction of the Mubarak government has been limited to denouncing the annexation and calling for United Nations action and consultations with the United States.
President Mubarak has ruled out any military action on behalf of the Syrians, saying, ''We are not going to slip or do something on which we are not consulted before. If Syria decides to start a war with Israel, it is her business.''
The Egyptian delegation to the Palestinian autonomy talks returned a day early from their discussions in Israel, but there are conflicting reports as to whether it was due to the Israeli annexation law, passed by the Knesset (parliament) Dec. 14.
After Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem in May 1980, the bombing of the Iraqi reactor in June 1981, and the bombing of Beirut in July, deep disillusionment about Israel has set in among Egyptians.
''We may well wonder on what basis Israel seeks to achieve comprehensive peace with its neighbors,'' the newspaper al-Goumhouria editorialized, ''now that it has annexed the Golan and rejected every Palestinian right to the land of Palestine, and continued its aggression on Lebanon.''