Israeli energy minister in wheelchair could not gain access to COP26 on first day

Published: Updated:
Enable Read mode
100% Font Size

Israel’s energy minister, who uses a wheelchair, was able to attend the global climate summit on Tuesday, a day after police prevented her from reaching the venue.

Energy Minister Karine Elharrar arrived at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow alongside Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, using a blue ramp to enter the building, according to footage sent by Bennett’s office.


For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

“Tomorrow the exact same thing will be here,” he said, gesturing toward the accessible entrance. “It’s very important, so is the message” it sends, he said.

A spokeswoman for Elharrar said Monday that she wasn’t able to attend the conference after police officers at a checkpoint did not let her vehicle with the wheelchair through.

Elharrar’s spokeswoman Shaked Eliyahu said that even though conference organizers knew she required an accessible entrance, the minister’s car was kept from approaching for two hours, after which she was offered a ride on a shuttle — which wasn’t wheelchair accessible.

The incident was an embarrassment to organizers of the high-profile event and prompted Britain’s ambassador to Israel, Neil Wigan, to apologize.

After the incident, Elharrar wrote on Twitter that “It’s sad that the UN, which advances accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021, doesn’t see to accessibility at its events.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a tweet addressed to the conference’s organizers that “you cannot be concerned about the future, climate, and sustainability if you aren’t concerned first of all to people, accessibility, and people with disabilities.”

Elharrar told the BBC she gained access “very easily” on Tuesday.

Footage posted on Bennett’s Twitter account showed her arriving in a car.

She said it was a learning moment for future UN conferences.

“We can talk about accessibility and the right for people with disabilities but in life we need to implement all the conventions and all the regulations,” she told the BBC.
“That was an experience that showed us that we need to pay attention to all the details everywhere.”

UK foreign office minister James Cleverly said he was “deeply disappointed and frustrated” over Elharrar not being able to access the summit on Monday.

London’s ambassador to Israel, Neil Wigan, said: “I apologize deeply and sincerely.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Elharrar, who is keen to promote action on renewable energy, were due to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the conference on Tuesday.

Read more: Pope Francis: COP26 must offer concrete hope to future generations

Top Content Trending