Portrait of Moshe Arens in his home in Savyon, July 28, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90) (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Moshe Arens

While belonging to the generation of Israel’s founding fathers, Arens was always preoccupied with advancing Israel’s future potential.

By Daniel Krygier, United with Israel

Israel’s former Defense Minister Moshe (Misha) Arens passed away Monday at the age of 93. Arens was a passionate Zionist who belonged to the founding generation of modern Israel. He was born in Lithuania in 1925 but grew up in America.

Arens served in the US army before moving to Israel in 1948.

He served under the governments of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. More than perhaps anyone else, Arens played an instrumental role in grooming the future prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Arens took the young Netanyahu under his wings and promoted him to the role of Israel’s UN Ambassador.

A passionate defender of Zion, Arens fully embraced the integration of Israeli Arabs while supporting peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors.

Much in Common with Netanyahu

While belonging to different generations, Arens and Netanyahu had much in common. Both grew up and were educated in the United States. Both were right-wing Zionists who joined the conservative Likud Party. Before Netanyahu, Moshe Arens was the most eloquent spokesperson for conservative Zionism in Israel.

Arens was a strong advocate for US-Israeli relations. However, during the First Gulf War, he opposed the Bush administration’s policy of preventing Israel from defending herself against Saddam Hussein’s aggression.

Arens played an instrumental role in transforming Israel into today’s thriving Start-Up nation. Technologically gifted, he studied at the Massachusets Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology. After returning to Israel, he eventually became professor at the Technion in Haifa. After leaving academia, Arens became the Deputy CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries.

Under Arens’ leadership, Israel started to develop its own advanced fighter jet – the Lavi plane. But the high-profile project was eventually considered too costly and was terminated by the government.

However, the Lavi plane was considered so advanced that even the American defense companies saw it as a serious competition. While the project ended, it eventually propelled Israel towards becoming a technological powerhouse.

Like Netanyahu, Arens was a passionate champion of reforming and liberalizing Israel’s economy. Like Netanyahu, Arens saw a huge potential in combining Israel’s technological know-how with a thriving and strong market economy. People involved in the abandoned Lavi project later played important roles in transforming Israel into a leading global hub of cutting-edge technologies.

Noted Historian and Author

Arens was a highly principled man who stood by his convictions. At the same time, he possessed a human warmth and stature that made him respected across the political spectrum. Apart from combining diplomacy with technology, Arens was also a noted historian and author. In recent years, he devoted much effort in documenting the full story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during the Second World War in a book titled Flags Over the Warsaw Ghetto.

Arens passed away in his sleep. He is survived by his wife Muriel Eisenberg; children Yigal, Ranan, Aliza and Ruth; 10 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

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