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Moshe Arens. Photo by Rhonda Spivak


By Rhonda J Spivak, B.A., L.L.B. Feb 1/2009

[Editor’s note: The following article was written in the spring of  2007 after Moshe Arens spoke at a  conference revisiting  the Six Day War in  Herzlia]

When Lithuanian born 82 year old Moshe Arens, former three-time Israeli Minister of Defense speaks about Israel’s security, the word deterrence is on his lips. In his view, the issue of deterrence is what defines the Yom Kippur War as such a success and the disengagement from Gaza and the Second Lebanon war such failures. 

As Arens, who is also a former Foreign Minister of  Israel says “The war that brought about the greatest turnabout in Israel’s [strategic] situation, in my opinion, was the Yom Kippur War [not the Six-day-War]. After the Six Day War in 1967 ,and the three NO’s of the Arab League in Khartoum, it was obvious that the Arab world was planning a second round …It was only after the Yom Kippur War that the deterrence power of Israel was there in all its might.  After that the Arab world never thought of another round”

“ In Egypt there is even a museum [that celebrates the initial victories of Egypt in the war] .  It is quite obvious that the Yom Kippur War was not only a victory but a great victory of the State of Israel.  Egypt managed to surprise Israel and had some achievements in the beginning …but they didn’t last…In the Yom Kippur War, some of the Arab states learned that war would not work…The peace agreement with Egypt, in my eyes, was the direct result of Israel’s victory in the Yom Kippur War…Otherwise we’d have seen preparations for another battle [with Egypt and other Arab states],” says Arens, who at the time voted against the Camp David Accords in 1977.

In Arens’s view, the Yom Kippur War led to “Israel’s appearance as an economic and military Superpower...and today we see that the G.D.P. (gross domestic product) of Israel versus the G.D.P. of the Arab countries is growing.”

Arens, who was first elected to the Knesset in 1974, believes that just as the Yom Kippur War must be considered in light of the consequences it had on the thinking of the Arab states, so too the Second Lebanon War must  be measured.  “One year ago [during the Second Lebanon War], there was a real turn about,” he says.

“In the eye of the Arab beholder, there was a definite victory for Hizbollah and to a great extent in Israeli eyes we were defeated…This is not a simple matter. Israel was not defeated in the [Second Lebanon] war, but the war undermined the deterrence of Israel,” he says.

“It should have been clear that when looking at the criteria for measuring victory and defeat, the question should have been, did we manage to suppress the shelling and the rockets ?  That’s the only criteria… Over one million people were in shelters and had to leave their homes. The civilian population was abandoned.  Half of the north of the country was destroyed. More than 1000 rockets were sent into Israel on the last day [of the Second Lebanon War ]… This was not a victory but a defeat,” he says.
 As for Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Arens says “ believe the disengagement was a fatal mistake, especially when we had been very successful in  conquering terror [in Israel] before the disengagement took place.  Hamas’s people believed that  terrorism caused the withdrawal.  This concept that terrorism can have such results is dangerous and brings us further from peace.”

As for what ought to be done in response to Hamas launching rockets on Sderot, Arens maintains that  the obvious thing to do is to send ground troupes to the launching sites, where they can put the rockets out of range. In his view “the best defense is offense.”

As Arens  wrote in a recent column that appeared  in Ha’aretz , “…The Qassam rockets are being launched from a distance of one to three kilometers from the wall surrounding the Gaza  strip.  The only way to put a stop to this is for the I.D.F. to enter Gaza to this depth and put the Qassams out of range.  There is no other way.”

When asked about whether he believes there will be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Arens responds “I wouldn’t hold my breadth.”

He questions whether it is “realistic” to try to strengthen Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas in the hope that he will bring stability to the Palestinian territories and suppress terrorism.  “Can he really be expected to take control of Judea and Samaria and more challenging yet, to wrest control of Gaza from Hamas?” Arens says.

Arens, who  grew up in the United States before immigrating to Israel in 1948, has generally been thought of as belonging to the ideological wing of the Likud.  He is, however unusual among voices in the Likud  when it comes to issues revolving around the rights of Israeli Arabs.  “I believe in full obligations and full benefits for Israeli Arabs,” he says.  He is of the view “that Israeli Arabs ought to serve in the Israeli Army and that they ought to be entitled to all of the rights and benefits that Jews in Israel receive.”

In this regard Aren’s appears to be more “liberal” than the Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, who is chair of the Labour Party, or Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud faction, neither of whom have ever espoused such a viewpoint. Aren’s adds that his opinion that Israeli Arabs ought to serve in the I.D.F.  has been shaped by the fact that  “ I’m from the United States originally and it  seems to me that that is what you need now a days for a true democracy.”

Arens believes that living in a democracy, in a country where rule of law prevails, in an economy that is making progress to the benefit of all., can be a source of pride and satisfaction to Arabs in the state as well as to Jews. 

“ I have had this view [that Israeli Arabs ought to serve in the I.D.F.] for a long time. Prof. Amnon Rubinstein [former Israeli Minister of Education from Meretz ] agrees with me. Army service would help with the integration of Israeli Arabs into Israeli society.  The Druze do army service, and that has worked out well,” says Arens, who during his second tenure s Defense Minister in 1990-92 ensured that real equality for the Druze in the I.D.F. was fully institutionalized.

In Aren’s view, the degree of  “Israelization” of the Druze community, the significant decline in its birthrate over the years, and the loyalty that this community has demonstrated to Israel again and again is the direct result of its youngsters serving in the I.D.F.  Creating a future in which the majority of Israeli Arabs identify with the state is “one of Israel’s most important challenges”, and a subject which is deserving of much more attention than it has been given by successive Israeli governments.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.