Religious trash talk goes mainstream in Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Religious fundamentalists are gaining greater influence on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, complicating peace efforts.
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Such strident biblical invocations mark a throwback to the speeches of Menachem Begin, the prime minister from 1977-83 from Netanyahu's Likud party who oversaw Israel's shift toward intensive settlement of the West Bank.Skip to next paragraph
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One of Netanyahu's coalition partners, the HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) party, presses for the expansion of the Jewish settler presence in the West Bank flashpoint city of Hebron by harkening back to the biblical patriarch Abraham's purchase of land there.
And with the government's backing, the hard-line settler group Elad oversees a popular national archeological park that disseminates the message that the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan is actually the City of David, which belonged to the biblical king – and thus should belong to the Jews today.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev denies the government is fueling the religious aspect of the conflict.
''The government is trying to solve the conflict, not exacerbate it,'' Mr. Regev says.
How religion could help
With the religious dimension of the conflict further pronounced, the prognosis for peace is more unfavorable, says Wadie Abu Nassar, director of the International Center for Consultations in Haifa.
''This started as a dispute between two national movements over the same piece of land, but it has become multidimensional and more complicated. The more complicated it is, the less chance it will be solved.''
However, some say religion itself is not the problem, but rather its misuse. If taught properly, it can actually boost Israeli-Palestinian coexistence by promoting love of one's fellow human being, according to Ron Kronish, director of the Inter-religious Coordinating Council in Israel, an affiliate of the international NGO Religions for Peace.
''There are problematic texts in all the traditions and some people pick texts to enflame,'' says Mr. Kronish, a rabbi. ''But ... it is possible to create more compassionate understanding using religious texts, the Bible and rabbinic teachings, the New Testament and later teachings, the Quran and Hadith. The rabbis, imams and ministers can be a force for peace if they decide to be so.''
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