Moshe Arens: The civilian who ran the IDF

Former Ambassador to the US Sallai Meridor recalls former defense minsiter and father of the Home Front Command Moshe Arens.

Shimon Cohen,

Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens
Miriam Alster/Flash 90

A memorial event will be held at the Jabotinsky Museum in honor of former Defense and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens.

Arutz Sheva spoke to one of the speakers at the conference, Arens' political advisor and later his chief of staff during his term as defense minister, Sallai Meridor. Meridor later served as chairman of the Jewish Agency, Israel's Ambassador to the United States, and other public positions.

Meridor praised the manner in which Prof. Arens ran the defense establishment, even though he did not come from the ranks of the senior IDF officer corps. "He ran the field in an amazing and successful manner. He had a security background as one of Israel Aircraft Industries' senior officers. He was also chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee."

"When he came to the post of defense minister, he conducted the strategic thinking of security with a combination of practical vision and long-term vision, and he influenced a range of areas such as missile defense, an area that is so important today, as is the issue of satellites and space. He established the headquarters of the Home Front Command as one of the lessons of the Gulf War. He led disciplines while raising his deep understanding of the security sector, his understanding of international strategy and his good international connections, especially with the USA.

Meridor also emphasized Arens' focus on the importance of the army as a cohesive social and national factor, and not only as a cause for the safety of the citizens: "It was important to him to foster enlistment in the army from all levels of society, including immigrants from the former Soviet Union. [He saw] the army as a social nationalist and not merely as a security provider."

"The question of aliyah was decisive in the foreign policy that he led as foreign minister, and so was his meetings with his interlocutors, whether the Soviets or the Ethiopians."

As chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Arens was one of the few voices in the Likud who opposed the peace agreement with Egypt. Arutz Sheva asked Meridor whether later, perhaps when he saw that the agreement was stable and sustainable, he came around to suport the treaty. Meridor was careful not to respond in Arens's name, "I did not hear him say directly later how he saw the matter. Most of his reservations were from the price we paid."

"The strategic component was central to him, and this led him to his position in the late 1970s. It is hard to say what his position was later, but his consideration was based on his understanding of things.

"It was an experience to work with a man like him and it is so lacking today in the political theater. I was next to him when he was defense minister. In almost every case that soldiers fell in operational activity, he made sure to go to comfort the bereaved families, and always did so without the accompaniment of the media."

Hebrew interview: