Image description: A background of factory, workers and a car with Elon Musk superimposed. End ID
Image description: A background of factory, workers and a car with Elon Musk superimposed. End ID

Illustration by Dulce Pop-Bonini

The Elon Musk Renaissance: Tesla in the Middle East?

Elon Musk is no stranger to attention and controversy. In the latest installation of the guessing games he incites: Is he actually looking to build a Tesla factory in the Middle East?

Oct 8, 2023

Elon Musk is no stranger to making headlines in so many different fields that it is sometimes difficult to keep up. He is always sparking controversies in the social media field, especially after his recent procurement of X, formerly known as Twitter. He is also a fixture in the tabloids, where his odd children's names did not escape public criticism. He also owns two technology giant companies, Space-X and Tesla. Recently, headlines involving Musk have been centered around his plans to expand Tesla and build a Tesla plant in the Middle East.
This comes in parallel with Musk’s plan to sell 20 million electric vehicles by the end of the decade which cannot be possible because there are only six pre-existing Tesla Gigafactories. Even though this may be an irrational goal, deciding to open a new plant might even be more irrational. Several countries have been courting Musk to be granted the honor of hosting a factory, yet looking at Tesla’s sales, figures have been slow lately. Nevertheless, most recently, the Middle East has been trying to attract Elon Musk.
Elon Musk recently met with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel and each of the interactions was noticeably different, not giving away which country he is leaning towards, or if he is even choosing one of them. First, the Wall Street Journal reported that there were talks between Musk and Saudi Arabia to have his manufacturing facility there as a part of their plan to diversify their economy. It was also reported that Saudi Arabia even offered Musk the right to purchase certain metals and minerals that the Kingdom is close to securing from African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Namibia. Musk, on the other hand, publicly denied these claims through his platform on X by retweeting the Wall Street Journal’s report and calling it “utterly false.” Saudi Arabia would’ve been a smart choice due to their very generous offer regarding the metals, but Musk completely and publicly turning it down like that did not help negotiations. The Wall Street Journal and Saudi Arabia have yet to comment on their rejection.
Elon Musk’s interaction with the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was as awkward as they come. They both met near the United Nations since the President was there for the General Assembly meeting. They had met previously in 2021 and “bonded” over their common interest in artificial intelligence. Musk took his son, X Æ A-Xii, with him to the meeting, and President Erdogan attempted to tease and wow the boy with a ball to play with, although he was not impressed and would not even look at the President. Erdogan then asked Musk where his wife was, which resulted in an uncomfortable laugh from Musk, clarifying that they were separated. But the more serious part of the meeting included the President informing Musk that Turkey is ready to work on Starlink with him which was shocking since Turkey previously refused to collaborate with SpaceX on the system that provides broadband internet using thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth. By the end of the meeting, President Erdogan randomly told Musk to build the factory in Turkey, to which Musk sympathetically respondes which was definitely a better response than the one he gave to Saudi Arabia.
Musk’s latest meeting in a Tesla Factory was with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister. Jewish people have been attacking Musk due to his management of X. Musk has cut back on many of the guidelines making it easier for users to post and share anti-Semitic material. From the outside, this meeting seems like a good opportunity for both of them to better their image in which Netanyahu can fight against the claims that his efforts are scaring away foreign investors and Musk erase claims of hate speech on his platform. Indeed, during the meeting, the Israeli Prime Minister pressed Musk on the anti-Semitic comments, to which Musk responded that he was against “anti-anything”. Oddly, Netanyahu took a layover in California specifically to meet Elon Musk; when given their relative positions, Musk could have easily traveled to Israel. Unfortunately, appealing to Musk won’t help Israel’s economy since many brands have become reluctant to post advertisements on X… so the company’s worth is dwindling.
We definitely will not stop seeing Musk’s name in the news, especially when he is always involved in the most controversial issues and always responds to news publicly, creating even more headlines. A person like Elon Musk needs that constant publicity and attention to boost interactions, but do country leaders also need that type of PR? It is not common for us to see this kind of back-and-forth game, this rife with political contradictions, occurring with such a consequential economic investment. Each of these countries would hugely benefit from the Tesla factory, and they will continue to give Musk once-in-a-lifetime offers, but it is clear he is not choosing anytime soon. As Musk continues to dominate headlines and navigate geopolitical intricacies, the world keeps guessing as to his next move in this high-stakes game of global influence. One thing is most clear — he knows how to garner attention around the world.
Mariam Okasha is a Staff Writer. Email them at
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