Arens was born in Lithuania in 1925 but grew up in the United States, where he was active in the Beitar youth movement of Likud’s precursor, the Herut party of Menachem Begin. He served in the American military during World War II before immigrating to Israel in 1948.
After completing his engineering degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology, Arens settled in Israel permanently. He worked as a professor of aeronautics at the Technion — the Israel Institute of Technology — and as an executive at Israel Aircraft Industries before going into politics. Arens was first elected to parliament in 1973.
In 1982, he was appointed Israeli ambassador to the United States and named his young protégé Netanyahu as his deputy. The position gave Netanyahu great exposure, led to his posting as ambassador to the United Nations and launched his political career.
Arens served as foreign minister and twice as defence minister under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. He briefly served as defence minister again under Netanyahu in the late 1990s. He later became a columnist for the liberal Haaretz newspaper, wrote several books and won numerous awards in Israel and overseas.
President Reuven Rivlin remembered Arens as a pillar of the Likud’s ideological wing, and “a man of honour who never flinched from the fight.”