Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Elon Musk when he travels to San Francisco next week, the premier’s office confirmed Thursday.
Netanyahu will visit Silicon Valley before his trip to New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly and meet with US President Joe Biden on its sidelines.
The meeting with Musk comes with the latter facing accusations of amplifying antisemitism on his X social media platform, and as he is embroiled in a feud with the Anti-Defamation League.
The Washington Post, citing five people familiar with the situation, said that the planned meeting was part of “a campaign by Musk’s Jewish friends and allies, and executives of his social media company, to stave off the mounting controversy.”
In response, Musk tweeted: “This discussion was planned several weeks ago and is about AI, not the Defamation League (they dropped the ‘A’).”
Israelis in San Francisco said they intended to protest the meeting.
“It’s deeply disturbing that Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the world’s only Jewish state, is flying across America to seek the counsel and support from a notorious enabler of anti-Jewish hate speech,” Offir Gutelzon, an Israeli tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, told The Washington Post.
Netanyahu is also likely to face protests during his visit to the US by Israelis opposed to his government’s judicial overhaul.
The report noted that Netanyahu’s government had helped defuse an earlier antisemitism controversy in May when Musk went after Jewish megadonor George Soros.
Musk said that Soros “hates humanity” and compared the philanthropist to a comic book villain. The Foreign Ministry, the ADL and other Jewish organizations said the comments stoked antisemitism, although Foreign Minister Eli Cohen later disavowed his office’s statement.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli came to Musk’s defense at the time, saying: “As Israel’s minister who’s entrusted on combating antisemitism, I would like to clarify that the Israeli government and the vast majority of Israeli citizens see Elon Musk as an amazing entrepreneur and a role model.”
“Criticism of Soros – who finances the most hostile organizations to the Jewish people and the state of Israel is anything but antisemitism, quite the opposite!” Chikli wrote on Twitter.
Soros is a billionaire and Holocaust survivor who supports progressive causes and is a common target of antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Musk has become highly controversial since taking over Twitter, which he later rebranded as X, and has been accused of amplifying hate speech and antisemitism.
The ADL has tracked massive spikes in racist, antisemitic and homophobic content and harassment since Musk bought the platform last year and restored extremist accounts banned under the previous management.
This has led to an escalating feud, with Musk accusing the ADL of leading an advertising boycott of X.
Last week, Musk asked his followers whether he should poll the platform about a hashtag, #BanTheADL, embraced in recent days by white nationalists and others on the far right.
Musk had earlier “liked” the tweet launching the hashtag by Keith Woods, an Irish white nationalist and self-described “raging antisemite.”
He then threatened to sue the organization for billions of dollars, accusing the ADL of trying to tank the platform by encouraging an ad boycott against it.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt denied the group was leading an ad boycott of X, but warned that Musk was spreading “age-old tropes” around blaming Jews for antisemitism and “engaging online with users who are espousing antisemitism and hate.”
Netanyahu has met and spoken with Musk several times in recent years, praising him effusively.
In 2018, he called the Tesla and SpaceX owner a “genius” and “a man of vision, perhaps the greatest technological visionary of our time.”
In June, Netanyahu also announced that he was setting up a team to formulate Israel’s policy on artificial intelligence after conversations with Musk and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. Netanyahu has said he wants to make Israel a world leader in AI.