Mutual distrust leads many Palestinians and Israelis to think of peace as a mirage. Since religion plays a significant role in justifying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, politicians need the help of religious leaders in their search for a solution.
The problem is that often the patriarchal figures of the three faiths are too focused on “protecting” the community from erosion of piety or the threat of assimilation to pay enough attention to moral empowerment. Too many leaders defend ownership of land at the expense of justice, rationalize war and its spoils, and remind their people to track the enemy vigilantly using partial interpretations of sacred texts for this purpose.
Religious leaders from outside the region oftentimes also fuel the conflict, sometimes without even being aware that they are doing so. Based outside of the area and free from the considerations of local day-to-day life, these authorities too often espouse hardline positions. The American charismatic church, for example, supports Israel automatically, even at the risk of threatening long-term Jewish security. To become enablers of peace, religious authorities will have to shift from a preoccupation with protecting the tradition from change to becoming agents of inter-communal reconciliation.