On the eve of the United Nations’ climate change conference in Poland, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Hamburg to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May and discuss global warming and their shared stance against nuclear proliferation.
While in Hamburg, Netanyahu spoke with May for 30 minutes, and he received the same polite apology from her in response to the refusal of British officials to allow Netanyahu to attend an international conference in his home country because of what he called a lack of accessibility.
Netanyahu traveled to Hamburg for last week’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), and he mentioned the “misunderstanding” he had with British officials on the wheelchair access for his delegation. He personally appealed to May after Israeli ministers were prevented from traveling to their scheduled destination, meaning that they were unable to participate in the conference.
Although the Israeli delegation was able to participate in the conference as observers, Netanyahu said Britain responded negatively to his appeal to a UK delegation representative asking for a “symbolic” gesture to apologize for what he termed the disrespect of Israel.
Netanyahu said he had been waiting for three hours for access, but it was denied and the Israelis were later informed that no invitation to “COP26” had been given. Netanyahu demanded an apology from May, and his press office reported on his phone call with May, which aired on Israeli TV.
The news feed on that channel then was followed by two clips showing May addressing the matter with her officials in her first meeting with Netanyahu. One clip showed May speaking with an unnamed official, and she apologized on behalf of the “regional representative,” a British term for British representatives to UN conferences.
Israel has been a leader in global efforts to address climate change, with Netanyahu often being critical of international efforts to get climate change on the political agenda and for its impact on the Middle East, which he often points to as particularly vulnerable.
Netanyahu has spoken frequently about the Mediterranean Sea shrinking, saying that various islands and cities are being threatened by climate change. He has also warned that rising sea levels will cause flooding of the most populated coastal areas in Israel as well as the energy infrastructure along Israel’s coasts.
Netanyahu was joined in his appeal to the British official by Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, after Netanyahu arrived back in Israel, saying “the message to the regional representative from the prime minister’s office is simply and bluntly: Yes we are a member of the United Nations. And there is no contradiction between taking part in the discussions of the United Nations and taking part in the discussions of a conference of 20 countries together.”
She said an apology was necessary “to underscore that it is a part of our duty to participate in the discussions of an international organization and part of our duty to participate in the decisions taken by this international organization.”
Netanyahu’s office later released a statement from the Israeli prime minister that said: “I have apologized in a phone call for the unfortunate misunderstanding that has arisen in the aftermath of an appeal by me to the Regional Representative in advance of the climate conference of the United Nations. And I have received an apology. An apology to which I have been invited, at my pleasure, in a letter addressed to me in the Foreign Ministry.”
“As regards the practical steps to be taken in the wake of this misunderstanding, I am very pleased to inform you that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the title of the Embassy of Israel to the United Kingdom has taken immediate steps to remedy the situation. The matter has been passed to the local authority and it is now up to them to decide when the venue of the conference will be relocated to an alternative location.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.