And but on Monday, Musk was in Israel being welcomed by the nation’s political elite — together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — to go to the area the place the Islamic militant group Hamas murdered 1,200 folks on Oct. 7.
For all of Musk’s stumbles, world leaders can’t afford to criticize or alienate him for lengthy: The world’s richest individual holds the keys to highly effective technological instruments. In this case, Starlink, his satellite tv for pc web supplier, is at the coronary heart of his political clout. Starlink, which is owned and operated by Musk’s rocket firm SpaceX, formally named Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has offered him with the skill to woo world leaders from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to officers at the Pentagon, by providing essential communications services.
“Musk is not just a player that should be regulated by the American government. He’s a global order player, who should probably have a seat at the UN Security Council,” mentioned Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. “Elon Musk can simply shirk his responsibilities and that’s because of his power.”
While Musk toured the Kfar Aza kibbutz, the place a few of the worst violence occurred final month, sporting a protecting vest and snapping pictures or movies on his telephone, Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi tweeted about a deal the ministry is discussing with Starlink. A consultant for SpaceX didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Musk had proposed providing internet services to Gaza final month and mentioned Starlink may assist assist connectivity with “internationally recognized aid organizations.” But Karhi rejected the supply at the time, saying “Hamas will use it for terrorist activities.”
Musk, who calls himself a free-speech absolutist, usually weighs in on political issues on X, which he purchased final yr for $44 billion. But he might have gone a step too far earlier this month after agreeing with an antisemitic put up, which mentioned that Jewish folks maintain a “dialectical hatred” of white folks. The international response was swift and fierce. The New York Times reported that the exodus of advertisers may price X as a lot as $75 million in lost revenue this yr.
It wasn’t clear how Musk’s journey to Israel happened, whether or not he was invited by Netanyahu or requested the journey himself. But his usually heat welcome in the nation combined pleas for regulating antisemitic commentary on X with discussions of satellites.
Starlink now counts greater than 4,500 satellites in area, greater than half of all energetic satellites, that talk with terminals on Earth to offer high-speed web. Based in Hawthorne, California, the intently held firm was valued final yr at about $140 billion and will ultimately search a public listing.
Starlink’s service in Ukraine raises questions on the way it could also be used in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Since the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Musk has offered Starlink dishes to the nation, however the service has been topic to his capricious whims.
Last yr, Musk prompt Kyiv ought to cede the Crimea area to Russia as a part of a peace deal. After sharp criticism erupted over his feedback, Musk threatened to chop assist for Starlink in Ukraine, saying SpaceX couldn’t carry the price indefinitely, solely to later reverse that place. This summer time, the Pentagon confirmed that it is buying Starlink communications terminals to be used by the Ukraine navy towards Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Musk earlier this yr for refusing a Ukrainian request to make use of the Starlink satellite tv for pc communication community in the Russian-annexed Crimean port metropolis of Sevastopol to strike Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Musk mentioned he refused it to keep away from complicity in a “major act of war and conflict escalation.”
As chief government officer of electrical car maker Tesla Inc. Musk’s enterprise ties in China have additionally put him at odds with Taiwan, which is looking for a system of satellites working in low-Earth orbit. Musk and his Starlink community are one clear answer, however Taiwan distrusts the billionaire, given his pro-Beijing feedback.
While Musk’s political opinions have usually put him in sizzling water with world leaders, he has made efforts in latest months with Israel. Musk and Netanyahu met in September in California, the place the two males did in reality discuss the issue of rampant antisemitism on X. At the time, Musk mentioned, “obviously I’m against antisemitism. I’m against anti-anything that promotes hate and conflict.”
On Monday, Netanyahu confirmed Musk a video of the atrocities carried out by Hamas. The two males talked on a public broadcast on X and agreed on serving to to rebuild Gaza and assist for the Palestinians.
If Netanyahu’s purpose was to persuade Musk of Hamas’ brutality and hatred of Israel, he might have achieved that. But, in line with Altshuler, Musk’s energy as proprietor of Starlink and X far outweighs his private beliefs.
“We see X is not removing any neo-Nazi antisemitic content and accounts, from the President of Iran to Jackson Hinkle,” she mentioned, referring to the American political commentator and social media influencer. “It’s against the community standards of X, which is compensating financially those accounts based on their new ad-sharing plan.”