COP26: Disabled Israeli minister let in, conference apologizes

"#COP26 must be inclusive and accessible to all and the venue is designed to facilitate that."

 Energy Minister Karin Elharrar speaks with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). (photo credit: Courtesy)
Energy Minister Karin Elharrar speaks with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).
(photo credit: Courtesy)

GLASGOW – Energy Minister Karin Elharrar was finally let into the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) on Tuesday after having been barred from entering due to the conference grounds not offering handicap access.

Elharrar, who has muscular dystrophy, uses a wheelchair and was unable to enter on Monday after hours of moving from entrance to entrance, attempting to make her way in. She left after finding no solution.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett escorted Elharrar into the conference on Tuesday after having said the previous day that he would make sure she would enter the conference in his motorcade.

“Regarding Minister Elharrar’s experience at the entry point yesterday, this was a genuine mistake and we have apologized for that,” organizers announced via COP26’s official Twitter page. “We are pleased to see her in attendance at COP26 today.

“#COP26 must be inclusive and accessible to all and the venue is designed to facilitate that,” they said.

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice called the scene “deeply regrettable,” but he blamed Elharrar’s team for not sufficiently notifying the organizers of the event about her “particular need.” The conference website said the event would be wheelchair accessible.

After hearing about the incident, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “very sorry” about the “confusion” and reportedly invited Elharrar to his and Bennett’s Tuesday meeting.

Elharrar expressed hope on Monday that the lesson of the incident had been learned so that she could focus on advancing green energy, removing obstacles and promoting energy efficiency at the conference on Tuesday.