A measure that would have made progress in accommodating the disabled was abruptly withdrawn from consideration in the Council on Aging at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, otherwise known as COP26. The withdrawal led to a heated exchange between Israel and the UK, which is one of the conference’s co-chairs.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he “sends his deepest apologies to the disabled guests who were denied access to the Council on Aging’s official event at the UN Climate Change Conference.
“The British Government had no intention of blocking these guests’ access to the event, but we found it hard to understand why there wasn’t a prior agreement.”
The organiser, Elad Yadlin, who was slated to represent Israel, said he was withdrawing from the conference.
“We have now met with the Foreign Secretary to apologise for this state of affairs,” Yadlin said in a statement released to the media, according to Israel Hayom, a pro-Netanyahu news outlet.
But Israel’s Environment Minister, Avi Gabbay, said Hunt’s comments were an “acceptance of failure” and continued.
“Thank you, Mr. Hunt. Thank you for expressing understanding. It is an enormous injustice for the disabled and the poor and it is so wrong. This is beyond my comprehension and I find it unacceptable,” said Gabbay, who is also chair of the governing Labour Party in Israel.
Gabbay suggested that Hunt make amends to the Israelis.
“Well now all you have to do is come to the southern Strip for which the Israeli government is responsible. This is where the Great Mother holds your hand and reads to you and the disabled dignitaries from around the world in a care home. No one has a right to spit on them,” he said.
“Let me set this straight. You can’t attend a UN conference and not get physical with your member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. You cannot come to the Golan Heights, which is our sovereign territory, and not be physically confronted with a Zionist, the ethnic cleansing and the expulsion of those displaced from the lands of the Ancient Covenant. You cannot tell the US ambassador in Israel that, by the way, it is ok for her to come, but you are spitting on me because I don’t recognise your legitimacy.
“This is complete madness! As a student, the UK establishment teaches you how democracy works, but at some point it stops working. You were a veteran. You were part of the joint force that saw the Allies put down the Japanese Invasion of Afghanistan, you knew how to deal with UN operations at the height of the cold war and you were an astute and successful operator at NATO.
“However, you have been blinded to your own hand in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and we — Israel — do not think that you see this. It’s actually quite touching, we salute your restraint and we stand with you to condemn this stupidity. Shame on you Mr. Hunt!”
Hunt, who is pro-Brexit, has just taken up his new post in London and his predecessor Boris Johnson resigned in protest of what he called British Prime Minister Theresa May’s approach to Brexit.
Hunt said he was “deeply sorry” that the disabled people were prevented from attending the Council on Aging’s event.
“There was a failure to secure those accessible facilities at the conference on the eve of the event and in breach of UN and UK policy,” Hunt said.
Hunt said his government should have led the call to “set a precedent to ensure that people from all countries, from all backgrounds have a fair say, that people are able to access their meeting space and … are kept at any major event protected by safe, accessible infrastructure.”
Hunt and US President Donald Trump took the stage together on Wednesday in a show of global solidarity that coincided with the release of the US President’s State of the Union address, vowing to help the developing world weather the “assault on our planet” — including a pledge to provide annual funding of $100 billion by 2025 to help the world’s poorest countries fight climate change.
Trump’s $100 billion pledge was an increase over existing US assistance, but fell short of the $200 billion that many UN member states and NGOs had been calling for.