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DJ: What about the religious aspect of this? Many of us were very shocked by the Unesco statement about the Temple Mount.

TH: We weren’t shocked, by the way. We have seen the politicisation of the organisation.

DJ: You’ve watched this over the years.

TH: Yes,  yes.

DJ: So it’s no surprise but it’s very depressing when it happens.

TH: But it discredits those organisations.

DJ: I agree, but nonetheless it’s a fact that you are in a minority in the UN, and even some of the European countries sometimes vote against Israel in these forums. So that’s one problem for you as a diplomat but the deeper problem is we are living through — not just you but all of us — this incredible and rather terrifying wave of radicalisation, whatever we want to call it, across the Muslim world. We’re seeing it not just across the Middle East, but much further afield than that, in Asia, and Africa, and even in Europe, so if this conflict becomes a religious conflict, that’s more dangerous, isn’t it? We can all argue about borders and status and purely political issues but we surely don’t want this to become even more than it is, a religious conflict between Jews, Muslims, Christians, as for example IS very much wants to make it, but also in a different way Iran, and perhaps other Islamic states too. How can Israel, which after all is formally speaking a secular state, although it has a Jewish identity, avoid the danger that the whole conflict becomes a religious one?

TH: The truth is I don’t think we can control deep streams of radicalisation that are developing on the other side. We can only do what we can do. We can do things to make sure that our side will always be open to peace and that the international community will put the emphasis on the right questions. But I think the big civilisation clash is much bigger than was described in Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations because Huntington was describing a world civilisation clash between countries that are far away. Today we have a clash within Western society. So I would say the questions about the civilisational clash are much bigger than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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