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Netanyahu set to announce establishment of Israeli AI directorate following meeting with Musk

Netanyahu set to announce establishment of Israeli AI directorate following meeting with Musk

The Israeli prime minister is expected to reveal a plan to establish an artificial intelligence directorate similar to the one that already exists in the field of cybersecurity, which is part of the Prime Minister's Office

Meir Orbach | 12:33  18.09.2023

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Elon Musk, the head of Tesla, SpaceX, and X (formerly known as Twitter), in California on Monday. According to reports, the meeting will focus on the topic of artificial intelligence. At the conclusion of the meeting, the two will conduct a live broadcast during which Netanyahu is expected to announce the establishment of an artificial intelligence directorate in Israel.

"I will start this visit in California where I intend to meet the current leader of the most dramatic development in the new age and perhaps in general, Elon Musk," Netanyahu posted on X. "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. 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.”

Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Elon Musk. Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Elon Musk. Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Elon Musk.

Netanyahu is expected to announce the plan to establish an AI directorate similar to the one that already exists in the field of cybersecurity, which is part of the Prime Minister's Office. The creation of this new framework will enable the consolidation of state efforts in the field of AI and is set to include increased budget allocations, regulatory measures, and the rapid adoption of technologies related to AI across all government ministries.

The Prime Minister's Office has not provided any official comment on this matter.

Netanyahu is also due to meet President Joe Biden in New York later this week. Netanyahu's office said the two leaders will meet during the prime minister's trip to the UN General Assembly, where the pair are both due to speak, but did not specify the exact location of the meeting.

Biden has expressed concern about a judicial overhaul undertaken by Netanyahu and his right-wing government as well as Israel's expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

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Civil rights groups, including the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), with whom Musk is feuding over antisemitism on X, have issued findings that the volume of hate speech on X has grown dramatically under the stewardship of Musk.

Last Thursday, an ADL spokesperson issued a statement saying: "Nothing about this meeting is particularly surprising given that Israel’s technology sector is one of the most innovative and dynamic in the world. However, Israel and Jews are frequently targets of hateful anti-Zionist, and antisemitic invectives on Twitter/X and we hope they will have a productive meeting and talk about ways to combat antisemitism and anti-Zionist hate speech on the platform."

News of the meeting drew criticism from UnXeptable, a movement launched by Israeli citizens disturbed by their home country’s rightward turn. The group announced it would organize protests in San Jose and San Francisco on Monday.

“It’s deeply unacceptable that Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the world’s only Jewish state, who calls himself the protector of Israel, is flying across America to seek the counsel and support from a notorious enabler of anti-Jewish hate speech,” Offir Gutelzon, a tech entrepreneur and co-founder of UnXeptable, said.

In December, the ADL noted both an increase in antisemitic content on the platform and a decrease in the moderation of antisemitic posts since Musk took over. The Center for Countering Digital Hate said the daily use of a racial slur against Black people under Musk was triple the 2022 average and slurs against gay men and trans persons were up 58% and 62%, respectively.

Without providing evidence, Musk has blamed critics for the slump in ad revenue. He has pointed the finger specifically at pressure from the ADL, which he has started to pejoratively refer to as the "Defamation League," including in his statement on X last Thursday.

Earlier this month, Musk joined a conversation on X with a hashtag #BantheADL, embraced by white nationalists and antisemites, and asked followers whether he should poll the platform about it. He engaged in exchanges with users who expressed antisemitic viewpoints during the discussion.

Foreign investment in Israeli tech startups has plunged in the last year, partly due to a global slowdown and exacerbated by investor fears that the push to trim the Supreme Court's powers would remove a key check and balance. With foreign flows down sharply, the shekel has weakened by nearly 9% versus the dollar this year.

Netanyahu is due to meet other world leaders at the U.N., including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Reuters contributed to this report

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