Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Elon Musk, the proprietor of X, the social media platform previously referred to 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 towards his deeply contentious effort to cut back the facility 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 have 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 mentioned they may focus on synthetic intelligence and methods to develop it in Israel.
For Mr. Netanyahu, an encounter with the world’s richest man — ostensibly to advertise tech funding in Israel — offers a riposte to claims that his authorities’s judicial overhaul has delay 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 turn out to be a vessel for antisemitic hatred.
“Netanyahu is in search of 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 should burnish his argument that he stays the perfect shepherd of Israel’s financial system,” mentioned 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 towards 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 keeping 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 Basic Meeting later within the week.
The go to comes towards a backdrop of rising unrest in Israel over Mr. Netanyahu’s effort to weaken the facility of the judiciary. Mr. Netanyahu says his judicial program enhances democracy by giving elected lawmakers better autonomy from unelected judges, however critics say it should 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 mentioned the overhaul, which has but to be enacted in full, will hurt Israel’s financial system.
“Save Our Begin-Up Nation,” has been a standard slogan at anti-government protests this yr.
Some tech corporations say they have begun to move investments and operations elsewhere; scores companies have expressed issues about Israel’s financial stability; and a few reservists in Israel’s cyberintelligence models have mentioned they won’t proceed to serve whereas the overhaul is in progress.
Shortly earlier than taking off for California, Mr. Netanyahu offered the assembly with Mr. Musk as proof that he remained a guardian of Israel’s financial system, moderately than a burden on it.
“This man to a big extent leads the method that can change the face of humanity and likewise change the face of the State of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu mentioned of Mr. Musk.
“I’ll focus on with him the topic of synthetic intelligence, and I will even push for him to put money into Israel within the coming years,” Mr. Netanyahu mentioned.
“Israel needs 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 area, too,” he added.
However Mr. Netanyahu’s narrative could but be drowned out by protests towards him. As he arrived on the airport in Israel to catch his flight early Monday, scores of demonstrators gathered exterior the principle terminal to see him off.
Hundreds are additionally set to protest towards 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.
One in every of their messages is that Mr. Netanyahu’s assembly with Mr. Musk provides little assist to Israel’s financial system.
Due to Mr. Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul, “the inventory trade goes within the fallacious route, investments will not be coming in,” mentioned Offir Gutelzon, an Israeli tech entrepreneur primarily based in Palo Alto, Calif., who’s organizing protests this week within the Bay Space. “To get investments like we did, we want the prime minister to cease the judicial coup.”
Not like the protesters Mr. Netanyahu has sometimes encountered on earlier visits to america, this week’s rallies have primarily been referred to 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, one in all Israel’s largest foes. The declare led the information bulletins in Israel and was extensively rejected by protest organizers and opposition politicians.
“This isn’t an anti-Israel rally, it’s a pro-Israel rally,” Mr. Gutelzon mentioned.
“We aren’t completely satisfied 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 referred to as Twitter, rose by greater than one hundred pc within the months following Mr. Musk’s buy of the platform in October 2022, in keeping with joint research 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 location.
Since his $44 billion takeover of X in 2022, Mr. Musk has rolled again content material moderation guidelines and dismissed many staff accountable for imposing these guidelines.
Mr. Musk has as an alternative pushed for an anything-goes strategy with regards to the sorts of speech allowed on X and has mentioned that the corporate was too restrictive below its former administration. His stance has spooked main advertisers, who want to keep away from putting 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 making an attempt to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic,” Mr. Musk wrote in a post 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 struggle the coronavirus; criticizing a disabled worker who had not too long ago been dismissed; and attacking George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who’s a frequent goal of antisemitic conspiracy theories.
American Jewish leaders mentioned they noticed each alternative and danger in Mr. Netanyahu’s go to. A number of, together with Jonathan Greenblatt, the league’s chief government, mentioned that Mr. Netanyahu might assist persuade Mr. Musk to enact extra rigorous measures towards antisemitism on the location.
However some additionally worry that even Mr. Netanyahu could have little impression.
“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,” mentioned Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the most important community of Jewish congregations in america.
However, he added, “I’m skeptical of such a gathering having the ability to resolve these points.”
In Israel, critics additionally questioned the knowledge of a head of presidency going out of his method at a busy time to satisfy with a businessman on his dwelling 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 spite of everything,” she added.
Kate Conger contributed reporting from San Francisco, and Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel.