It takes two to tango, as the foreign-policy choreographer in the White House likes to say. But what's happening to President Rea-gan's peace plan for the Middle East must remind him that the dances there are more like Israel's traditional hora - a lot of people have to hold hands.
Most recently it's the Palestine Liberation Organization which has demonstrated the challenge. Its central council last week failed to get together even within itself on how far to hang back or join in. The PLO leaders better start taking some of their friends' good advice, or they will unnecessarily prolong the agony of the people under Israeli rule they are supposed to represent.
Egypt's President Mubarak and France's President Mitterrand have submitted to the United Nations a peace plan involving mutual recognition by Israel and the Palestinians. They consider it more realistic than either Mr. Reagan's or the one adopted by the Arab summit at Fez. But the two leaders have agreed that the Reagan plan must be given a chance. Mr. Mubarak has urged his fellow Arabs, the Palestinians, to recognize Israel without waiting for reciprocation.
The PLO has long tried to make do with an admittedly plausible debating point: that a party which is not recognized, such as itself, can hardly recognize anyone else. But debate has to give way to negotiation if anything is to be achieved. For the PLO to recognize Israel, as implied even in the Fez resolutions, would be a step toward getting serious.
The PLO central council simply omitted reference to the recognition matter in the statement following its meeting in Damascus. The statement did not reject the Reagan plan outright, as hard-liners had urged along with other tough positions that were omitted.
The council did denounce the Reagan plan's failure to call for an independent Palestinian state and to recognize the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. But chairman Yasser Arafat, who had earlier given a wary welcome to parts of the plan, went on to three days of talks with Jordan's King Hussein. Afterwards he said they had agreed to continue consultations on the possibility of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation.
Jordan would be part of Mr. Reagan's plan for Palestinian self-rule in Israeli-occupied territories. King Hussein is reportedly hopeful that moderate Arab states can be encouraged to support the peace process, something he is expected to take up when visiting President Reagan later this month.
In other words, the circle for the Middle East dance is far from complete. But a hand here and there - or at least a little finger - is being offered as the band tunes up. President Reagan and company should not miss the opportunity to build on any hint of cooperation.