Moshe Arens, whose distinguished career in Israeli public life included serving three times as defense minister, as well as ambassador to the U.S. and other important positions, died yesterday at the age of ninety-three. Born in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas, Arens moved with his family to Riga, Latvia when he was two years old, and came to America in 1939. Late in his life he was known for his clear-eyed and principled commentary on Israeli political and strategic affairs. A review of his memoir can be read here. Haviv Rettig Gur describes Arens’s remarkable life:
[Arens] served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in World War II, then immigrated to Palestine and joined the right-wing Irgun paramilitary group, which immediately sent him to North Africa to help organize Jewish communities seeking to come to the Land of Israel. He returned in 1949 and soon became a key member of the nascent Ḥerut party, the progenitor of today’s Likud.
Between 1951 and 1957, he studied aeronautical engineering at MIT and Caltech in the U.S., then returned to Israel to teach in the Technion—Israel’s most prestigious technical college. He earned a tenured professorship there by 1961, at just thirty-six years old. In 1962, he was appointed deputy head of Israel Aircraft Industries, a position he held until 1971 and in which he helped direct Israel’s major indigenous fighter-jet project, the Kfir, or “young lion,” as well as Israel’s first indigenous cargo plane, the Arava, or “willow,” which took its first flight in 1969. . . .
Arens had been a key mentor for an ambitious young Benjamin Netanyahu, taking him to the Washington embassy in 1982, then backing him for UN ambassador in 1984 and deputy minister in the foreign ministry in 1988—Netanyahu’s first significant public-service positions. . . .
He had opposed Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza, suggesting instead that Palestinians could receive Israeli citizenship as part of a binational state. He also opposed the nation-state law and advocated full equality and better integration for Israel’s minorities. . . . After leaving politics, Arens researched and published a book on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Flags Over the Warsaw Ghetto.