Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Elon Musk, the proprietor of X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, have each confronted intense scrutiny and criticism for many of the yr.
Mr. Netanyahu has been the goal of a nine-month wave of mass protests in opposition to his deeply contentious effort to cut back the ability of Israel’s Supreme Court docket. Mr. Musk, amongst different issues, has been accused of tolerating and even encouraging a surge of antisemitic abuse on X.
On Monday morning, the 2 males had been set to discover a respite from these furors — in one another’s firm. Mr. Netanyahu took a 15-hour in a single day flight to satisfy Mr. Musk in California, the place the Israeli prime minister has stated they may focus on synthetic intelligence and how you can develop it in Israel.
For Mr. Netanyahu, an encounter with the world’s richest man — ostensibly to advertise tech funding in Israel — supplies a riposte to claims that his authorities’s judicial overhaul has postpone traders and harmed Israel’s tech sector.
For Mr. Musk, the assembly with the chief of the world’s solely Jewish state offers him an opportunity to deflect a barrage of criticism from American Jews who say he has allowed X to develop into a vessel for antisemitic hatred.
“Netanyahu is searching for any victories he can get, and if he is ready to get Musk to vow high-tech funding in Israel and declare that Israel stays an A.I. chief, it would burnish his argument that he stays the perfect shepherd of Israel’s economic system,” stated Michael J. Koplow, an analyst on the Israeli Coverage Discussion board, a analysis group in New York.
“As for Musk, he’ll level to a heat assembly with Netanyahu as a protect in opposition to accusations of antisemitism,” Mr. Koplow added.
The assembly was organized at Mr. Musk’s suggestion and adopted a number of calls in current weeks between the 2 males, in line with Mr. Netanyahu’s workplace.
Mr. Netanyahu was scheduled to depart once more on Monday night on one other in a single day flight, to New York, the place he’s set to satisfy President Biden and make a speech to the United Nations Normal Meeting later within the week.
The go to comes in opposition to a backdrop of rising unrest in Israel over Mr. Netanyahu’s effort to weaken the ability of the judiciary. Mr. Netanyahu says his judicial program enhances democracy by giving elected lawmakers larger autonomy from unelected judges, however critics say it would make the federal government unaccountable, undermine the rule of regulation, and make Israel a riskier place to do enterprise.
Economists, senior bankers and Israeli enterprise leaders, together with tech entrepreneurs who helped make Israel a cyber superpower, have stated the overhaul, which has but to be enacted in full, will hurt Israel’s economic system.
“Save Our Begin-Up Nation,” has been a typical slogan at anti-government protests this yr.
Some tech companies say they’ve begun to maneuver investments and operations elsewhere; rankings businesses have expressed issues about Israel’s financial stability; and a few reservists in Israel’s cyberintelligence models have stated they won’t proceed to serve whereas the overhaul is in progress.
Shortly earlier than taking off for California, Mr. Netanyahu introduced the assembly with Mr. Musk as proof that he remained a guardian of Israel’s economic system, fairly than a burden on it.
“This man to a big extent leads the method that may change the face of humanity and in addition change the face of the State of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu stated of Mr. Musk.
“I’ll focus on with him the topic of synthetic intelligence, and I can even push for him to put money into Israel within the coming years,” Mr. Netanyahu stated.
“Israel ought to be a pacesetter within the topic of synthetic intelligence, and simply as we made it a pacesetter within the cyber sector, so we are going to do on this discipline, too,” he added.
However Mr. Netanyahu’s narrative might but be drowned out by protests in opposition to him. As he arrived on the airport in Israel to catch his flight early Monday, scores of demonstrators gathered exterior the primary terminal to see him off.
1000’s are additionally set to protest in opposition to him within the Bay Space and New York this week, and anti-Netanyahu messages have already been projected onto the partitions of the United Nations headquarters in New York and the previous jail island of Alcatraz off San Francisco.
Considered one of their messages is that Mr. Netanyahu’s assembly with Mr. Musk presents little assist to Israel’s economic system.
Due to Mr. Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul, “the inventory alternate goes within the mistaken course, investments should not coming in,” stated Offir Gutelzon, an Israeli tech entrepreneur based mostly in Palo Alto, Calif., who’s organizing protests this week within the Bay Space. “To get investments like we did, we’d like the prime minister to cease the judicial coup.”
Not like the protesters Mr. Netanyahu has usually encountered on earlier visits to america, this week’s rallies have primarily been known as by expatriate Israelis and American Jews who assist Israel however oppose Mr. Netanyahu.
On the eve of his departure, Mr. Netanyahu accused the protesters of discovering widespread trigger with Iran, considered one of Israel’s largest foes. The declare led the information bulletins in Israel and was broadly rejected by protest organizers and opposition politicians.
“This isn’t an anti-Israel rally, it’s a pro-Israel rally,” Mr. Gutelzon stated.
“We aren’t completely happy to do it,” Mr. Gutelzon added. “We’re doing it as a result of it’s an existential disaster.”
Compounding this anger is the notion that Mr. Netanyahu is offering Mr. Musk with political cowl at a time of rising antisemitism on X.
Antisemitic posts on X, then often called Twitter, rose by greater than 100% within the months following Mr. Musk’s buy of the platform in October 2022, in line with joint analysis by two British teams.
Mr. Musk has additionally set off alarms by threatening to sue the Anti-Defamation League, a rights watchdog that has highlighted the rise in antisemitism on X. Mr. Musk blames the group for a big drop in promoting income for the positioning.
Since his $44 billion takeover of X in 2022, Mr. Musk has rolled again content material moderation guidelines and dismissed many staff chargeable for imposing these guidelines.
Mr. Musk has as a substitute pushed for an anything-goes strategy relating to the sorts of speech allowed on X and has stated that the corporate was too restrictive beneath its former administration. His stance has spooked main advertisers, who want to keep away from inserting their manufacturers subsequent to contentious posts, and lots of of them halted their promoting campaigns on the platform after Mr. Musk’s takeover.
“The ADL has been attempting to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic,” Mr. Musk wrote in a put up earlier this month, referring to the Anti-Defamation League.
He additionally set off outcries by showing to name for the prosecution of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who helped lead U.S. efforts to combat the coronavirus; criticizing a disabled worker who had lately been dismissed; and attacking George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who’s a frequent goal of antisemitic conspiracy theories.
American Jewish leaders stated they noticed each alternative and danger in Mr. Netanyahu’s go to. A number of, together with Jonathan Greenblatt, the league’s chief govt, stated that Mr. Netanyahu might assist persuade Mr. Musk to enact extra rigorous measures in opposition to antisemitism on the positioning.
However some additionally concern that even Mr. Netanyahu could have little influence.
“It’s vital for all of us, together with the prime minister of the state of Israel, to loudly and clearly categorical to Elon Musk that what is going on on his platform is outrageous, and it endangers the lives of the Jewish folks,” stated Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the biggest community of Jewish congregations in america.
However, he added, “I’m skeptical of such a gathering with the ability to resolve these points.”
In Israel, critics additionally questioned the knowledge of a head of presidency going out of his approach at a busy time to satisfy with a businessman on his house turf.
Not like President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who met Mr. Musk on Sunday in New York, Mr. Netanyahu took a 15-hour flight for simply 12 hours on the bottom in California.
“It’s customary for an individual, even Elon Musk, to be the one touring to Israel,” Edna Halbani, a former head of protocol within the prime minister’s workplace, advised an Israeli radio station.
Mr. Netanyahu “is the prime minister, in any case,” she added.
Kate Conger contributed reporting from San Francisco, and Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel.