Netanyahu said set to meet Elon Musk in US amid antisemitism feud with ADL

PM flying to San Francisco for meetings with AI leaders ahead of his trip to the UN General Assembly and talks with Biden

Elon Musk departs the Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Court House in San Francisco, Jan. 24, 2023.  (AP Photo/Benjamin Fanjoy, File)
Elon Musk departs the Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Court House in San Francisco, Jan. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Benjamin Fanjoy, File)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reportedly meet with Elon Musk when he travels to San Francisco next week. The meeting would come despite Musk being accused of amplifying antisemitism on his X social media platform and his embroilment in a feud with the Anti-Defamation League.

Netanyahu will visit Silicon Valley before his trip to New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly later this month, his office said. Sources in his office said the prime minister plans “to hold a series of meetings with leading figures in the artificial intelligence world.”

Hebrew media reported that he would also likely meet with Musk.

Netanyahu has met and spoken with Musk several times in recent years, praising him effusively.

In 2018 he called the Tesla and Space X 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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Justice Minister Yariv Levin (L) at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on September 10, 2023 (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

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 the ADL, which Musk accuses 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.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 05: Jonathan Greenblatt participates in the “Building Coalitions to Fight Hate” panel during the TAAF Heritage Month Summit at The Glasshouse on May 05, 2023 in New York City. JP Yim/Getty Images for The Asian American Foundation/AFP (Photo by JP Yim / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Netanyahu and his far-right government have already shown a willingness to side with Musk over the US Jewish community amid antisemitism controversies.

In May, Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli defended Musk after the tech billionaire attacked Jewish megadonor George Soros, drawing fire from the Foreign Ministry and the Anti-Defamation League.

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.

Chikli joined the fray by coming to Musk’s defense, saying, “As Israel’s minister who’s entrusted on combating anti-Semitism, 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 anti-Semitism, 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.

Amichai Chikli, minister of Diaspora affairs and social equality, arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on May 14, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

For Netanyahu, the trip to the US will be his first since taking office again in December as the head of a hardline government. US President Joe Biden has resisted inviting him to the White House and will only meet him on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York.

The White House has repeatedly expressed disapproval of many statements and policies emanating from members of Netanyahu’s hardline government, as well as with its judicial overhaul plan, which has roiled the country.

According to his office, the prime minister will depart Israel next Sunday evening, and land in San Francisco, California, on Monday.

After spending the day on the West Coast, he will fly to New York, arriving there on Tuesday.

Netanyahu is expected to address the UNGA on Thursday or Friday, and remain in New York over Shabbat, leaving just after it ends in order to land back in Israel before Yom Kippur begins on Sunday evening.

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