U.S. special envoy Philip C. Habib left for Washington today to report to President Reagan on his efforts to resolve the Syrian missile crisis, but both the White House and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin said they expected Habib to continue his shuttle diplomacy after a short break.
As Habib ended three weeks of such efforts, Begin tempered his expressions of hope for future success with charges that Syria has expanded its missle batteries in Lebanon in the last 24 hours and has adopted a "very warlike attitude."
In Damascus, Washington Post correspondent Stuart Auerbach reported that a trip through the Golan Heights, where Syrian and Israeli forces are separated by U.N. forces, revealed no extraordinary readiness on the part of the Syrian Army and no air activity by either side. [Details, Page A21.]
Begin met with Habib today for 45 minutes then told reporters: "The common opinion of all the participants is that the diplomatic effort will continue. For the time being, I must tell you the truth, the diplomatic effort did not bear fruit. But that does not mean that any of us lost hope that in the future there will be a different situation, and ultimately that the diplomatic effort will indeed bring the desirable result."
Habib emphasized that the diplomatic effort to avert a Middle East war will continue, and he said he will return to the region next week.
In a statement before departing from Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport, Habib declared, "I am convinced that all involved wish to avoid hostilities. I base this conclusion on my many talks with leaders in the region . . . . Ldiplomatic efforts to defuse tensions in the area, to bring about a peaceful solution to the problem, will continue. Continued restraint by all parties, of course, remains essential to a peaceful resolution of the crisis."
The special envoy is due in Washington Thursday after a stopover in Paris tonight.
The U.S. Embassy released a White House statement saying, "The president believes that this is the appropriate moment to receive first-hand Ambassador Habib's news and discuss with him the future of his continuing mission in the context of his efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis involving the events in Lebanon."
Habib has shuttled among Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to gain approval of compromise proposals intended to end the Israeli-Syrian confrontation, which began to escalate April 28 when Israeli Air Force jets shot down two Syrian helicopters used in support of Syrian attacks on Israeli-backed Christian militias in the Mount Lebanon range east of Beirut.
The Israelis and the U.S. diplomatic team have pinned hopes on Saudi leaders being able to persuade Syrian President Hafez Assad to withdraw the missiles deployed in Lebanon. Begin has warned that if the diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis fail, and Syria refuses to remove the missiles not only in Lebanon but those inside Syria near the border, Israel will attack the batteries to assure freedom of movement of Israeli aircraft in Lebanese skies.
When asked whether efforts by the Saudis to influence Syria had failed, Begin replied, "They didn't bear fruit."
In reply to questions, Begin said the Syrians "did augment the missiles. Yes, indeed, for the last 24 hours . . . we are talking about the general setup of missiles, and what we learned for the last 24 hours in that the Syrians augmented the missiles arrangement." He would not disclose how many additional missiles had been deployed, or whether they were in Lebanon or inside the Syrian border.
The prime minister also said the Syrians had "called up several tens of thousands of reserves" and had generally increased their war footing.
"The Syrians don't even participate in the diplomatic effort, and they now are in a mood that they will, as they put it, under no circumstances remove the missiles from Lebanon. And they are, for instance, in a very warlike mood, which we don't like, but which we are not impressed by," Begin said.
He added, "And their press is also very aggressive, I would say. And also very arrogant. But we are not impressed." Referring to his own assertion last week that a missile battery manned by Libyan soldiers is in Lebanon, Begin said, "It's one of the serious developments. The Libyans are in Lebanon to quite an extent. It's not a serious threat to us, but it's a menace."
Despite his sharp verbal attacks on Syria, and his alarm about war preparedness there, Begin's remarks were liberally laced with signals that Israel will continue to follow a policy of remarks were liberally laced with signals that Israel will continue to follow a policy of restraint as long as there is any hope for a peaceful solution.
He stressed that Israel had set no time limit on Habib's mission, and said jokingly that the U.S. envoy could stay and enjoy the sunshine in Israel for months if he wants. For three days, Habib has been marking time in Jerusalem while awaiting replies from Riyadh on Saudi Arabia's efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement with Syria. The Syrian president's brother, Rifar Assad, returned to Damascus from Rihadh earlier in the week after talks with the Saudis.
Meanwhile, the opposition Labor Party has obtained the necessary backing for an emergency session of Israel's parliament. Labor members intend to force Begin to explain his military commitment to the Christian force of northern Lebanon. Begin last week disclosed that in August 1978 he told the Christians that the Israeli Air Force would intervene if the Christians were attacked by the Syrian Air Force.
Washington Post correspondent Jonathan C. Randal reported from Beirut:
Habib's departure from the Middle East left Lebanese wondering if he would return next week as promised or whether the United States was giving his stalemated mission a polite burial.
"Today began an ambiguous and dangerous period," said a Lebanese minister, who insisted on remaining anonymous. He also said the United States had failed to inform the government of any aspect of the mission since Habib left Beirut Saturday.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia was reported to have paid the $54 million in arrears due the totally Syrian Arab deterrent force in Lebanon. The Saudis were now said to be prepared to host a ministerial session of a four-nation Arab committee charged with overseeing peacemaking efforts in Lebanon early next week.
The Saudi ambassador, Gen. Ali Shaer, returned to his post after a long absence and conferred today with President Elias Sarkis.
By providing an overall Arab cover to what increasingly has become a controversial Syrian enterprise at peacekeeping and peacemaking, the Saudis were credited with trying to help solve the crisis caused by Syrian installation of surface-to-air missiles here.
The effort began last week when the Arab League foreign ministers backed Syria in an emergency meeting in Tunis.
Many of the steps required to achieve a settlement on the ground -- and bring about a face-saving formula for Syrian withdrawal of the missiles from the Bekaa Valley -- have been worked out, according to informed sources.
Thus the probable meeting next week in Riyadh of Lebanese, Syrian, Kuwaiti and Saudi foreign ministers was expected to deal with various mechanical steps.