Remembering Moshe Arens: Statesman, Engineer, Historian, and Father of the Israeli Aeronautics Industry

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.

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Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank