Israeli minister in wheelchair can now access COP26, one day late


TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) – The Israeli energy minister, who uses a wheelchair, was able to attend the world climate summit on Tuesday after police prevented her from reaching the location.

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

“Tomorrow, exactly the same will be here,” he said, gesturing to the accessible entrance. “It’s very important, so is the message” that he sends, he said.

A spokeswoman for Elharrar said on Monday she was unable to attend the conference after officers at a checkpoint failed to let her vehicle pass with the wheelchair.

Elharrar spokeswoman Shaked Eliyahu said that although conference organizers knew she needed an accessible entrance, the minister’s car was blocked from approaching for two hours, after which she was offered to take a shuttle – which was not wheelchair accessible.

The incident embarrassed the organizers of the high-profile event and prompted an apology from UK officials.

“We deeply regret this incident,” Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC radio on Tuesday. “What would normally happen in this situation is that Israel would have communicated that they had this particular need from their minister.

“There was obviously something wrong with this case and they weren’t aware of it and so they hadn’t made the right arrangements at the particular entrance she was coming from.”

After the incident, Elharrar wrote on Twitter that “it is sad that the UN, which advances accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021, does not see accessibility at its events.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweeted: “It is impossible to preserve our future and deal with the climate crisis without first and foremost taking care of people, including ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities.

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