June 25, 2024

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Elon Musk visits Israel with claims of a Starlink satellite deal in the works

2 min read

A week ago, Elon Musk was facing international backlash after endorsing antisemitic content on his social media platform, X. Corporations including Apple Inc. and Walt Disney Co. stopped advertising on the site in protest of hateful and racist commentary.

And yet on Monday, Musk was in Israel being welcomed by the nation’s political elite — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — to visit the region where the Islamic militant group Hamas murdered 1,200 people on Oct. 7. 

For all of Musk’s stumbles, world leaders can’t afford to criticize or alienate him for long: The world’s richest person holds the keys to powerful technological tools. In this case, Starlink, his satellite internet provider, is at the heart of his political clout. Starlink, which is owned and operated by Musk’s rocket company SpaceX, formally named Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has provided him with the ability to woo world leaders from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to officials at the Pentagon, by offering 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,” said 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, where some of the worst violence occurred last month, wearing a protective vest and snapping photos or videos on his phone, Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi tweeted about a deal the ministry is discussing with Starlink. A representative for SpaceX didn’t reply to a request for comment.

Musk had proposed providing internet services to Gaza last month and said Starlink could help support connectivity with “internationally recognized aid organizations.” But Karhi rejected the offer at the time,…

Simon Marks, Marissa Newman, Bloomberg

2023-11-28 00:41:25

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