Moshe Arens, defense minister under three prime ministers, dies at 93

Moshe Arens in 1999. Wikimedia Commons

JERUSALEM — Moshe Arens, a veteran Israeli politician and defense minister under three prime ministers, has died.

Arens, who first hired Benjamin Netanyahu and is credited with helping him get his start in politics, died on Monday in his sleep at his home near Tel Aviv. He was 93.

Arens was a member of the Knesset for the Likud Party between 1973 and 1992 and again from 1999 until 2003. As ambassador to the United States beginning in 1982, Arens hired Netanyahu as part of the diplomatic corps and later appointed him as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Arens served as Israel’s defense minister under three prime ministers: Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Netanyahu. He also served as foreign minister.

Prior to entering politics, Arens was deputy director general at Israel Aircraft Industries, where he oversaw major development projects, including the Kfir fighter jet project. Before that, from 1957 to 1962, he was a professor of aeronautics at The Technion.

Arens was born in Lithuania, and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1939. He served during World War II in the United States Army Corps of Engineers as a technical sergeant. Arens immigrated to Israel shortly after it declared independence and joined the Zionist paramilitary organization, the Irgun.

He returned to the United States in 1951 to study engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and aeronautical engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

In his later years, Arens was a columnist for the left-wing Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. He also served as chairman of the International Board of Governors of Ariel University Center of Samaria.

“I loved you as a son loved his father,” Netanyahu said in a tribute to Arens on Monday. “There was no greater patriot. Moshe Arens’ great contribution to our people and our state will be
remembered forever.”

“Misha was one of the most important ministers of defense the State of Israel ever had. He was not a commander or a general, but a devoted man of learning who toiled day and night for the security of Israel and its citizens,” Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement on Monday.

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog in a statement called Arens “a true leader with integrity, reason and eloquence who made great contributions to Israel’s security and global standing. Despite our differences, there was always mutual respect between us.”

He is survived by his wife, Muriel, four children and nine grandchildren.

—JTA News and Features

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