Former defence minister Moshe Arens mourned

Moshe Arens. Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90

MOSHE Arens, one of Israel’s best-known former defence ministers, was buried on Tuesday, and lauded for his lasting contribution to Israeli security.

“Moshe was devoted to the revival of the Jewish people in his country with all his soul,” said Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein. “His tremendous contribution to Israel’s security and international standing will endure always.”

The Lithuanian-born Betar graduate grew up in America and made aliyah. He trained as an engineer but he ended up instead in politics, representing Likud. He served as foreign minister and, for three stints, as defence minister. He was also Israel’s ambassador to Washington.

Arens was regarded as one of the most successful politicians to have made aliyah from an English-speaking country.

The current Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, paid tribute to Arens, 93, saying that he “did so much to strengthen Israel’s security and bolster our alliance with the United States”.

Arens was from the old-school Israeli right-wing, and President Reuven Rivlin – who claims the same heritage – spoke about his principles at the funeral.

“Your principles derived from an understanding that you believed with all your heart,” he said. “The basic belief that the State of Israel can only be democratic and Jewish, Jewish and democratic, and that the burden of proof falls on us and us alone.”

Rivlin added, “You believed that Israel’s obligation to include its Arab citizens was its first priority, even before the need for a political agreement, and that it was essential for all our futures. It was according to that belief that you worked and acted.”

Arens’ principles meant that while he was ideologically aligned to the Israeli right, he rejected some of its positions today.

He strongly opposed the new Nation State Law, claiming that “only a very narrow-minded view of Israel can lead one to support this law”.

Arens is remembered as the man who gave Benjamin Netanyahu his start in politics – though he wasn’t always complimentary about his protege’s path.

He was not only Bibi’s mentor. Since his death, several politicians from different parties have revealed that they took inspiration from him.

“From my very first days in politics I saw him as a role model,” said Aliza Lavie of Yesh Atid.

President of the Zionist Federation of Australia Jeremy Leibler said, “Moshe Arens will be forever remembered as an Israeli statesman who believed wholeheartedly in Israel’s dual character as a Jewish and democratic state. He showed great skill as a politician and most importantly, was highly respected and liked across the political divide. Israel has lost a true ‘gentleman’ of Israeli politics.”

NATHAN JEFFAY