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.

Read more at Times of Israel

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

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount