Can endorsement of the ethos of conflict alter psychological effects of exposure to political violence? Israelis and Palestinians have been in a state of political and military turmoil for decades. We interviewed 781 Israelis and 1,196 Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Using structural equation modeling, we found that among those with a weak adherence to ethos of conflict, exposure predicted higher levels of hatred. For Israelis with a weak adherence to ethos of conflict, exposure predicted higher psychological distress and fear. For Palestinians with weaker adherence to ethos of conflict, stronger exposure predicted stronger threat perceptions. Israelis and Palestinians with a strong adherence to the ethos showed steady and high levels of negative emotions and threat, regardless of exposure. These results indicate that ethos of conflict is a double-edged sword that both protects and protracts the conflict. Although it serves as an engine fueling the conflict, it also plays a meaningful role as an empowering force for people suffering the psychological burden of an ongoing conflict.