Politician Moshe Arens Is Born
Minister of Defense Moshe Arens pictured in 1999. Photo: Public Domain

December 27, 1925

Moshe Arens, an Israeli defense minister and foreign minister, is born in Kovno, Lithuania.

After moving to Riga, Latvia, when he is a toddler, his family immigrates to New York in 1939. Arens leaves the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1944 to serve in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, then finishes his degree in mechanical engineering after World War II. He immigrates to the new state of Israel in 1948 and signs up with the Irgun, which sends him to North Africa and Europe to organize Jewish self-defense groups. He is a founding member of the Revisionist Zionist Herut party, which grows out of the Irgun, in 1949.

Arens returns to the United States in 1951 to study aeronautical engineering at the California Institute of Technology. He teaches at the Technion from 1957 to 1962, then manages aircraft and missile development at Israel Aircraft Industries until 1971, the year he wins the Israel Defense Prize.

He is first elected to the Knesset in 1973 with the Likud party, Herut’s successor. As part of the governing coalition after the 1977 election, Arens chairs the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and opposes the treaty with Egypt reached by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the Likud leader. Arens resigns from the Knesset in 1982 to serve as the ambassador to the United States, and he brings Benjamin Netanyahu with him to Washington to serve as the deputy chief of mission.

Arens leaves the ambassadorial post in 1983 to serve as defense minister, replacing Ariel Sharon, who resigns over his role in the massacres at the Sabra and Shantila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982. He returns to the Knesset from 1984 to 1992 and from 1999 to 2003. He serves as foreign minister from 1988 to 1990 and as defense minister from 1990 to 1992 under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Arens again serves as defense minister for less than six months in 1999 under Prime Minister Netanyahu despite challenging Netanyahu for the Likud leadership.

In addition to writing articles on defense and engineering issues before his political career, Arens publishes the books “Broken Covenant” (1995) on U.S.-Israel relations, “Flags Over the Warsaw Ghetto” (2011) about the role of the Jewish Military Union in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the memoir “In Defense of Israel” (2018). Arens dies Jan. 7, 2019, at age 93