UPDATE: The new foreign minister was able to attend the talks as a guest of the UK leader.
The new Israeli minister who could not attend the COP26 climate change conference in Poland due to a wheelchair access issue accepted British Prime Minister Theresa May’s apology late Tuesday.
Environment Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is wheelchair-bound due to lymphoma disease, learned only hours before the conference was scheduled to begin Monday that she wouldn’t be able to attend in her wheelchair due to insufficient wheelchair access on a conference platform. When Shaked tried to arrive, she could not find an empty space on the platform.
Despite the lack of access, Shaked tweeted throughout the day that she would attend as a guest of the British prime minister.
UK PM May called me last night to apologize for my being denied access to an empty wheelchair pic.twitter.com/EQ5DcypXQz — Ayelet Shaked (@ayeshotshakedyou) May 22, 2019
Upon learning of the conference’s shortcomings, the British government said that more flexibility would be offered to Shaked in the future.
“As you know there was significant frustration that Minister Shaked couldn’t access her wheelchair, and my office was in touch with the UK government throughout the day,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters on Wednesday. “The British government is clearly very sensitive to what happened with Minister Shaked, and they have tried to accommodate us. We responded positively and said we could still attend if we could be accommodated.”
But Lieberman acknowledged that dealing with the conference did not make economic sense. “Now, I understand that a foreign minister who goes missing in action isn’t a good economic decision,” he said.