U.S. Official Praises Arens Policy in Territories As an Improvement

A ranking U.S. State Department official has indirectly complimented Defense Minister Moshe Arens for the improved human rights situation in the administered territories since he took office two months ago, Ha’aretz reported Tuesday.

According to the newspaper, Richard Schifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, noted the improvement in a conversation with a prominent Palestinian leader, Gaza lawyer Fayez Abu Rahme.

His remarks reached the cars of the Israeli authorities, Ha’aretz said.

The paper said that Schifter cited in particular the drop in the number of Palestinian casualties at the hands of the Israel Defense Force in recent months.

There have been no Palestinian fatalities in the Gaza Strip as a result of IDF action for the past two months. Arens and the rest of the Likud-led Cabinet were sworn into office in June.

Schifter attributed the drop in casualties to the fact that Israeli security forces are under orders to fire their weapons only in the most extreme circumstances.

Palestinian sources told Ha’aretz they saw political significance in Schifter’s meeting with Abu Rahme.

His name has often come up as a possible member of a Palestinian delegation which would negotiate with Israel.

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