The meeting with Musk on Monday in San Francisco comes as the tech billionaire and social media mogul faces mounting criticism for his continued attacks on the Anti-Defamation League.
The visit is part of a key diplomatic trip to the U.S. for Netanyahu, who is also set to address the United Nations General Assembly next week and have a long-awaited meeting with President Joe Biden on the sidelines.
Other tech leaders will also join Netanyahu’s meeting with Musk, part of a bid to bolster Israel’s start-up sector, according to the Washington Post. The choice to meet Musk will be closely scrutinized because of Musk’s string of run-ins with the ADL on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter that Musk owns. Most recently, Musk issued a string of posts threatening to sue the ADL, engaging with white supremacists and blaming the prominent American Jewish civil rights group for stoking antisemitism.
In the past, the ADL has taken Musk to task for removing the platform’s guardrails against hate speech and for tweeting that liberal Jewish megadonor George Soros, a frequent target of antisemitism, “hates humanity.” Musk has said the group should be called a “defamation league,” and in recent days, has shared posts decrying “ADL-backed media” and accusing the ADL of a “shakedown” of social media platforms. Musk has said he blames an ad boycott led by the ADL for the social network’s financial troubles after he purchased it last year.
The meeting won’t be the first time Netanyahu has spoken with Musk. In June, the prime minister chatted with Musk by phone shortly after Musk’s posts about Soros. Netanyahu said at the time that the two discussed how Israel can expand its involvement in the artificial intelligence field.
Figures in Netanyahu’s coalition have both criticized Musk and defended him from antisemitism charges. In May, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Musk’s Soros comments had crossed the line, but the foreign minister later disavowed that condemnation. Soon afterward, Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli called Musk “an amazing entrepreneur and a role model” and denied that his criticism of Soros was antisemitic. Separately, Israel’s health Ministry criticized comments Musk had made about the COVID-19 vaccine as “fake news.”
Musk recently tweeted that he is “pro free speech, but against anti-Semitism of any kind.” Shortly after his string of posts lambasting the ADL, X CEO Linda Yaccarino posted and then revised a statement outlining the company’s commitment to combating antisemitism. The company also put out a statement accusing the ADL of “consistently misrepresent[ing] our progress” in the area of “combating antisemitism on X.”
Yaccarino further exchanged text messages with ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who recently told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Musk was spreading “age-old tropes” by blaming a prominent Jewish organization for antisemitism.
Even before his meeting with Musk was confirmed, Netanyahu’s trip to the United States was attracting attention because of the anticipated meeting with Biden, which Netanyahu has sought since he returned to office at the end of last year. Biden has so far rebuffed the prime minister due to concern about far-right elements in Netanyahu’s coalition as well as his effort to weaken the Israeli court system.
That judicial overhaul, which has led to widespread civil strife in Israel, has led a group of Israelis and progressive Jews in the Bay Area to announce a protest of Netanyahu’s visit next week. Protest organizers said they now plan to protest the Musk meeting as well.
“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, a tech veteran and co-founder of the Israeli expatriate protest movement UnXeptable, told the Washington Post.