Lebanese officials expressed bewilderment here today at what they described as renewed intransigence by Israel after nearly two weeks of progress in negotiations for the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from Lebanon.
The Lebanese said the new attitude was apparent at the Israeli-Lebanese negotiating session yesterday in a Beirut suburb, at which an Israeli negotiator read a prepared statement expressing "disappointment" with Lebanon's latest proposal on future relations with Israel.
"There was no one stumbling block," said one Lebanese source. "There was a mood of intransigence. We heard many things coming back again that we thought were settled."
Earlier this week sources here, expressing optimism about the talks, disclosed that Israel and Lebanon had reached tentative agreement on some of the principal issues that had long stalled negotiations. In response, however, Israel denied that an agreement was imminent.
The Lebanese were apparently referring to the results of marathon sessions here last week in which U.S. special envoy Philip C. Habib and Lebanese President Amin Gemayel put into writing issues on which there had been oral agreement in previous negotiating sessions.
This was the paper Habib carried with him when he went to Jerusalem Sunday, and the disclosure of its terms in Lebanon may have been part of the complicated play of public and private maneuvering surrounding the withdrawal negotiations.
["All in all, we don't like the package that Habib brought from Beirut," an Israeli official said in Jerusalem, Washington Post correspondent Edward Walsh reported. "But we did not reject it outright. We are willing to talk."]
A well-placed U.S. source said part of the problem is that the negotiations move on parallel tracks: the Habib shuttle and the formal talks. The source said most of the serious movement has come in Habib's contacts with leaders on both sides, while much of the formal talks and public statements is given to "posturing."
In public, the Lebanese treated the Habib proposals as tentative agreements, while the Israeli public posture is to describe the same proposals as still on the negotiating table.
A Lebanese official insisted that the terms that went into the Habib paper were not "different from what was said in the meetings."
"We don't know if this shift [in Israeli posture] is tactical or if there is a change in the whole attitude," he said, adding that he did not believe Israel's stance would become clear until two or three more meetings are held.
The sources said they do not understand the new attitude this week but expressed guarded optimism. One said, "We don't think at all this is the final word . . . We'll be patient."
Previous sudden shifts in Israeli attitudes were understandable only in hindsight, the sources said. They said the apparent accords began to emerge about a week after Ariel Sharon's departure as Israeli defense minister, as the Reagan administration intensified its pressure on Israel to reach a settlement.
Sources here disclosed Monday that Israel had in recent negotiating sessions indicated it was prepared to drop its demand for retaining a residual force after withdrawal of the bulk of its troops from Lebanon and would accept joint Lebanese-Israeli inspection teams to monitor security arrangements designed to prevent renewed cross-border attacks on northern Israel.
The head of the Israeli negotiating team, David Kimche, said that Israel remained firm in its demand for the establishment of five Israeli-manned "observation posts" in southern Lebanon even after the troop pullout, Walsh reported.
[An Israeli official said that the Israelis are willing to consider any suggestion that might be as effective as the observation posts, but have heard none. He said the Lebanese have suggested joint Lebanese-Israeli "supervisory teams," which he said were inadequate because "they won't fight." Active "joint patrols" of Lebanese and Israeli soldiers in the area might be more acceptable, he said, but added that this had not been proposed by Lebanon.]
The Lebanese sources, in describing the terms of the tentative agreement, said Israel had also signaled it would no longer insist that the Lebanese sign a written pact for trade and mutual relations before troop withdrawal, but would wait for an interim period of months to pass.
Lebanon had sought the delay feeling that Jordan might soon join peace negotiations with Israel, allowing Lebanon to establish normal relations with Israel with less fear of becoming the target of a boycott by other Arab countries.
Lebanon had tentatively agreed to oral accords during the interim period, allowing for some limited movement of people and trade across the border.
[Israeli officials said they are willing to go along with "temporary arrangements," but said the Lebanese proposal of a so-called "interim period" contains suggestions that are "absolutely not acceptable," Walsh reported from Jerusalem. The officials said Israel has rejected them for fear of getting "stuck" with these proposals on a permanent basis if further negotiations are not productive.]
There is already de facto trade between the two countries, as Israel has been trucking in tons of goods through Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon. Much of it ultimately reaches Beirut.
The Lebanese government announced sweeping measures against illegal trade and said it would take over a part of Beirut port long controlled by the Lebanese Forces militia, the country's largest private army, Reuter reported.
[A communique said people holding illegally imported merchandise had a month to pay duty, after which they could be prosecuted, according to the report.]