update deskU.S.-Israel Business, Trade & Technology

Netanyahu meets Musk in California, kicking off weeklong US trip

"I will work toward encouraging him to invest in Israel in the coming years," said the Israeli prime minister.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a live broadcast with Elon Musk, Sept. 18, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a live broadcast with Elon Musk, Sept. 18, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk in California on Monday, kicking off a weeklong visit to the United States.

Speaking to reporters on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion International Airport before his departure for San Jose on Sunday, Netanyahu said that he would meet “the current leader of the most dramatic development in the new age and perhaps in general, Elon Musk.”

“I will discuss artificial intelligence with him, and I will also work toward encouraging him to invest in Israel in the coming years. He is, to a large degree, paving the way that will change the face of humanity and also the face of the State of Israel,” said Netanyahu. “Israel needs to be a leader in artificial intelligence. Just as we turned it into a leader in cyber, so we will do in this field as well.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, meet with X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk on Sept. 18, 2023. Video by Roi Avraham/GPO.

Following their private meeting, Netanyahu and Musk were scheduled to hold a live conversation on the X social-media platform at 9:15 a.m. California time.

The visit is Netanyahu’s first trip to the United States since being voted back into office on Nov. 1, 2022.

After spending the day in Silicon Valley, the prime minister will travel to New York City, arriving there on Sept. 19.

In the Big Apple, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly general debate on Wednesday before addressing the opening session of the 78th General Assembly on Friday.

While in New York, Netanyahu is also expected to meet with other world leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Schulz, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, South Korean President Yoon Seok Yeol and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

Netanyahu will remain in New York over Shabbat, flying back shortly before the start of Yom Kippur on the evening of Sept. 24.

Protest leaders said they plan to hound Netanyahu during his entire seven-day U.S. visit.

On Sunday, protesters from the UnXeptable movement projected an image of Netanyahu behind bars onto the abandoned prison on Alcatraz Island offshore from San Francisco. The image read: “Welcome to Alcatraz Bibi!”

Last week, they projected a message onto the U.N. headquarters in New York reading: “Don’t believe Crime Minister Netanyahu. Protect Israeli democracy.”

“The slogan projected on the U.N. building wall is just a small taste of what is awaiting the indicted defendant Netanyahu on his visit to NYC,” the protesters said in a statement. “We will be waiting to greet him. In the air, on land and at sea. The whole world will know that Netanyahu is a liar. We will not allow him to disgrace Israel and deceive world leaders with his speeches.”

Netanyahu lashed out on Sunday night against anti-judicial reform protesters, saying they are “joining forces with the PLO and Iran” in harming the Jewish state.

“The protesters have made blocking roads a normal event, refusal [to serve in the military] normal, and they are defaming Israel before the world,” said Netanyahu ahead of his departure for the United States.

“I was the head of the opposition and I did not slander Israel before the world,” he added.

Members of Netanyahu’s Likud party also criticized the planned anti-Netanyahu protests in the U.S., with coalition whip Ofir Katz writing on X that “factually, until today those who protested against representatives of the government abroad and in particular at the UN were Israel-haters, in demonstrations that were accompanied by PLO flags.”

Katz added, “Now they are leading to the same result—harm to the State of Israel.”

He called the Alcatraz stunt the actions of a “few extremists” motivated by hate.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev also took to X to slam the protesters, accusing them of “shaming the State of Israel and harming the country’s legitimacy, citizens and democracy.

“The time has come to put an end to this—you have lost it, the public is no longer impressed. We are building and acting for the country, while they are destroying and sowing hate,” Regev wrote.

The Likud Party posted to X a video of protest leader, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, saying in 2022, before the current government was elected, that “if the right forms a government—he will bring a million people to the streets. The only goal of the left is to overthrow the government.”

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