Wheelchair-bound Israeli minister left outside UN Climate Conference

November 3, 2021 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow was witness to an embarrassing incident on Tuesday when Karine Elharrar, Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources, who uses a wheelchair, was left out of the conference due to accessibility problems.

Karine Elharrar, the minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources in the new 36th Israeli government, arrives at the presidential residence in Jerusalem to pose for the traditional government photo with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Jerusalem, Jun 14, 2021. Photo by Shalev Shalom/TPS

Elharrar returned to her hotel after being asked to board an inaccessible wheelchair shuttle and after waiting for hours for a solution.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the incident, and told Elharrar that her being kept out of the climate conference is “unacceptable.”

“Under his direction, the Minister will arrive at the conference complex tomorrow together with the Prime Minister’s convoy,” Bennett’s office stated.

The UK’s Ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan stated he was “disturbed to hear” that Elharrar was unable to attend meetings and “apologized deeply and sincerely to the Minister.”

“I am deeply disappointed and frustrated” that Elharrar could not access the conference. “The COP venue is designed to be accessible for all. I have spoken to the Minister about this and I look forward to meeting her tomorrow,” he said.

Elharrar stated in response that she traveled to the conference to “promote a joint fight against the climate crisis through meetings with my peers around the world. Unfortunately, this was not possible due to an accessibility problem, which no longer has a place in 2021. I sincerely hope that the lessons from this day will be learned so that tomorrow the promotion of green energies, the removal of barriers, and energy efficiency will be the things I deal with.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid noted to the organizers of the conference that “it is impossible to worry about the future, the climate, and sustainability if we do not take care of people, accessibility, and people with disabilities first.”

Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection, Tamar Zandberg stated that “the climate conference is designed to save humanity from a crisis. The fact that my dear friend Karine Elharrar could not enter the climate conference today due to accessibility barriers is severe and unbearable. I hope tomorrow the embarrassment will be corrected.”

Bennett faced criticism in Israeli media for his inaction in real-time on the issue. The incident occurred as Bennett addressed the conference. Bennett should have postponed his speech until the organizers of the conference took care of accessibility for Elharrar, or he could have at least mentioned the issue on stage during his speech, they said.


One Response to “Wheelchair-bound Israeli minister left outside UN Climate Conference”
  1. LYnne Newington says:

    Unbelievable….no excuses for prime minister Bennett either for making sure all Israeli delegates were accountable and present..

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