SAN JOSE, Calif. — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is starting a U.S. trip in California to talk about technology and artificial intelligence with billionaire businessman Elon Musk.
The Israeli leader posted Monday on Musk’s social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that he plans to talk with the Tesla CEO “about how we can harness the opportunities and mitigate the risks of AI for the good of civilization.”
Netanyahu’s high-profile visit to the San Francisco Bay Area comes at a time when Musk is facing accusations of tolerating antisemitic messages on his social media platform, while Netanyahu is confronting political opposition at home and abroad. Protesters gathered early Monday outside the Fremont, California factory where Tesla makes its cars.
The video livestream kicked off shortly before 9:30 a.m. with Netanyahu and the Tesla CEO. Netanyahu’s official X account posted that he is holding a “a one on one conversation” with Musk. The two kicked off with a joke about deepfakes and quickly launched into a discussion of artificial intelligence as both a blessing and a curse for humanity.
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken part in nine months of demonstrations against Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul Israel’s judicial system. Those protests have spread overseas, with groups of Israeli expats staging demonstrations during visits by Netanyahu and other members of his Cabinet.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Jewish civil-rights organization, has accused Musk of allowing antisemitism and hate speech to spread on X, in part by amplifying the messages of neo-Nazis and white supremacists who want to ban the league by engaging with them on the platform.
In a Sept. 4 post, Musk claimed that the league was “trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic.” In other posts, he said the league was responsible for a 60% drop in revenue at X.
The group met this month with X’s chief executive, Linda Yaccarino. Both Musk and Yaccarino have recently posted messages saying they oppose antisemitism.
From California, Netanyahu heads to New York, where he is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly and meet with President Joe Biden and other world leaders, his office said. They include German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as well as South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
Netanyahu says the judicial overhaul plan is needed to curb the powers of unelected judges, whom he and his allies say are liberal and overly interventionist. Critics say his plan is a power grab that will destroy the country’s system of checks and balances and push it toward autocratic rule.
Leading figures in Israel’s influential high-tech community have played a prominent role in the protests. They say weakening the judiciary will hurt the country’s business climate and drive away foreign investment. Israel’s currency, the shekel, has plunged in value this year in a sign of weakening foreign investment.