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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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Israeli technology, Likud, Moshe Arens, Technion

 

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat