Israeli Statesman and Right-Wing Stalwart Moshe Arens Dies at 93
Longtime Israeli diplomat and politician Moshe Arens — who served as the Jewish state’s ambassador to the US and several terms as defense minister and foreign minister — died on Monday at the age of 93.
Arens was born in Lithuania in 1925. He moved with his family to the US just before the outbreak of World War II and served in the American army. He moved to Israel in 1948 and became an Irgun envoy. He was a founding member of the right-wing Herut party (which merged into the Likud party four decades later).
In 1951, Arens returned to the US, where he studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology.
Later in the 1950s, Arens became a professor at the Technion in Haifa.
An aeronautics expert, Arens helped develop the Jewish state’s air capabilities. He was the deputy director general of Israel Aircraft Industries from 1962-1971.
He entered the Knesset as a Herut member in 1973. In the early 1980s, he was appointed as Israel’s ambassador to the US, a role he filled for a year, before returning home for his first stint as defense minister.
Arens also served as foreign minister from 1988-1990, before going back to the Defense Ministry in 1990-1992 (when the First Gulf War occurred) and 1999.
His last of six terms in the Knesset ended in 2003.
Also a noted historian, Arens penned the book Flags Over the Warsaw Ghetto.
Arens was current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s primary mentor in the 1980s, helping pave the way for Netanyahu’s rise to political power.
In a statement on Monday, Netanyahu describe Arens as “my teacher” and “an outstanding student” of the late Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
“In this framework he knew my father, who was present at his wedding to his dear wife Muriel,” Netanyahu added. “Since then there has been an abiding bond between our families.”
“I watched Misha do amazing things to build up the standing of the State of Israel time and again — as ambassador in Washington, foreign minister, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and defense minister,” said Netanyahu, referring to Arens by his nickname. “In recent years he dedicated himself to endlessly watching over the documentation of the full story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.”
“Several weeks ago I visited Misha in his home,” Netanyahu noted. “He was lucid as always, sharp as a razor, marvelous in the splendor and nobility of his soul, an exemplar. There was no greater patriot. Moshe Arens’ great contribution to our people and our state will be remembered forever.”
“Rest in peace Misha; you were very dear to me,” the prime minister concluded. “I loved you as a son loved his father.”
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that Arens’ passing was “sad and painful.”
“He was one of the most professional and significant defense ministers of the State of Israel,” Barak stated.
Barak called Arens “exemplary,” saying he was “always optimistic about our ability to overcome any obstacle with our own power.”
Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said, “Arens was a man of truth, a patriot, and a statesman. He was the kind of public figure that everyone respected.”
Gantz added that Arens “always stood for the flag when the country needed him.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett recalled Arens as “a path-breaking defense minister.”
“I loved you so much, Misha,” Bennett said. “Moshe Arens was a Zionist to his bones. He dedicated his entire life to fortifying Israel’s security, in science, aeronautics, as defense minister, as a diplomat, as a writer, and as a historian.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin stated, “Misha was one of the most important leaders of the Herut movement. A man of honor who never flinched from the fight. Misha was one of the most important ministers of defense the State of Israel ever had. He was not a commander or a general, but a devoted man of learning who toiled day and night for the security of Israel and its citizens.”
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CoP) Chairman Arthur Stark and Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein lamented Arens’ death as “a national loss for Israel and world Jewry and a personal loss for us.”
“Arens was known for his integrity, thoughtfulness and deep devotion to the Jewish state and Jewish people,” they said.