Israel is willing to discuss the simultaneous withdrawal of Israeli, Syrian and Palestinian troops from Lebanon, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir said here today.
His position seemed at variance with indications from Jerusalem that Israel continued to call for an estimated 8,000 Palestine Liberation Organization troops to leave Syrian-occupied zones before the withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian troops.
U.S. special envoy Morris Draper met for 90 minutes today with Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, Washington Post correspondent Edward Walsh reported from Jerusalem, but a Foreign Ministry spokesman there said the subject of who should withdraw first from Lebanon did not come up.
An Israeli government spokesman in Jerusalem said later, however, that "the prime minister and defense minister emphasized the necessity for the immediate withdrawal of all Palestinian terrorists still in Lebanon," Reuter reported.
Shamir, in an interview here today, made clear that the call for a prior PLO withdrawal was not a firm demand by Israel.
It is something "we are asking," he said, "because they [the PLO] are active and there is no cease-fire with them. They have to be removed as soon as possible. But simultaneous? Why not? It's a matter for discussion."
Last week, President Reagan said U.S. Marines now in Lebanon as part of the international peace-keeping force would not leave "until all foreign forces are withdrawn." He referred specifically to Syrian and Israeli forces at his news conference, making no mention of PLO troops.
According to accounts in Israeli newspapers, Syria has told American negotiators that it is not responsible for the Palestinian guerrillas and that if Israel wants them out of Lebanon it should deal with them directly.
In the interview, Shamir also confirmed that Israel is no longer demanding a peace treaty with Lebanon before the withdrawal of its occupation troops, or as part of a security arrangement for the area of southern Lebanon near the Israeli border.
"Our political aim is a treaty, but one thing does not depend on the other," he said.
If there is "a will to leave Lebanon by all parties," Shamir said, "it could be done without complications -- it is a question of technicalities."
As for the security zone, he went on, it would not require either an Israeli presence or an international peace force.
Shamir said he was aware that France had shown a willingness to move its troops from Beirut to the southern sector as part of a permanent guarantee, but he insisted that "an international force would not be the best answer."
Instead, he said, security can be guaranteed through "cooperation" between Israel and the Lebanese.
The foreign minister, who will visit Washington next week for the first high-level American-Israeli talks there since the Beirut massacre, maintained today that the "basic friendship" between the two nations had not been damaged by the events in Lebanon or differences over the comprehensive peace plan advanced by Reagan.
He argued that the American position in the Middle East had been strengthened "thanks to our operation in Lebanon," while "the lack of normal relations between us and Soviet Russia has had a detrimental affect on the Soviet position in the area."
He left open the possibility of a meeting here with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko to discuss the reestablishment of relations, which were broken off in 1967.
Shamir conceded that Israel's image in Congress, in public opinion polls and among American Jews was hurt by the massacre, but said that "after the truth about this event will emerge, its impact will diminish."
Shamir was harshly questioned yesterday by American Jewish leaders at a closed meeting in New York, participants said. In particular, the representatives of the Jewish community were critical of the Begin government's blunt rejection of the Reagan plan.
He repeated in the interview what he told them: "We have such close relations with the U.S. that we have to be sincere, and speak with Washington in full candor."
He insisted that these negative feelings were just "an episode," and not a watershed in U.S.-Israel relations.
Shamir was firm on Israel's demand that the United States drop the Reagan proposal for a link between Jordan and the Arab populations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
He said the United States must "stick to the role of intermediary" in the Camp David process.
"We have to forget for a while all ideas about the end of the process. We must not mention it, not discuss it. This is the only realistic way to make some progress. Otherwise, we will not move."
Still, Israel "will welcome" Jordan if it wishes to join the Camp David talks, Shamir said. "We will not accept any conditions, and we will not pose conditions."
Shamir also charged that comments by some American officials "contributed" to the "attempt to topple the government" of Israel. But he would not be specific, and backed off when asked whether this was U.S. policy. "I wouldn't say they were intentionally involved," he said. "I cannot say this is a policy. I listened carefully when the president denied such a possibility. And I trust the president."
Reagan's reported remark that Israel is now a Goliath rather than a David, Shamir said, did not change Israel's view that "the president is a great friend of our country."
But he added: "We are still very far from being a Goliath."
So far, Shamir has met with more than 25 foreign ministers in New York for the General Assembly session, "and I don't see any major deterioration of our international image" as a result of the Beirut massacre, he said.
He conceded that he had faced "questions and doubts" in those meetings. But he insisted that "it is not difficult for me to give answers, because everyone knows the truth."
The foreign ministers, Shamir said, "know it is not the responsibility of Israel."
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Begin reportedly agreed to allow senior Israeli Army officers to review the minutes of Cabinet meetings dealing with the Israeli move into West Beirut before they are called to testify before a state judicial board of inquiry that is to investigate the massacre. The procedure is highly unusual and appeared to be an effort by the government to assure the top echelon of the Army of its support during the coming investigation.
In Tel Aviv, a brigade of reserve paratroopers who served two stints in Lebanon placed a newspaper advertisement calling on Sharon to apologize for saying in a television interview that he and Army Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan had decided against calling them up because they would not fight, United Press International reported.
During the Begin-Draper meeting today in Jerusalem Israel added a new condition for its withdrawal, according to UPI. Begin reportedly said withdrawal of Israeli forces will not occur until Israeli prisoners -- Syria holds three, the PLO eight, and six are missing -- have returned home or have been accounted for.