From the year that Israel was founded in 1948, up until the end of the Six-Day-War in June 1967, the so-called "green line" divided Israel from the Jordanian-controled West Bank. Over the past 43 years, some 300,000 Israelis have settled in the West Bank, which many Israelis refer to by the Biblical names, Judea and Samaria. The concept of a pre-1967 border doesn't mean much to 18 year-old Elad Schwartz. He's spent his whole life beyond the green line, in a large bloc of settlements south of Jerusalem, called Gush Etzion.
"If Jews are ever forcibly removed from here," Schwartz said, "it will lead to violence. And we'll just come back and re-settle this place anyway."
A local business owner, who didn't want to give his name, said it's a bad idea to try and draw a new border through here, dividing Israel from the future independent state of Palestine.
"If you're going to change the borders which exist today, two things are gonna happen: a) war will raise its head, and b) hate will ensue. This will cause the US much bigger problems than they have now. If you keep the borders as-is, the status quo can keep going."
But President Obama said the status quo is unsustainable. The only way for the Palestinians to have their rights and Israel to survive as a Jewish and democratic state, Mr. Obama argues, is to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and give the Palestinians a state of their own.
37-year-old David Malul does yard work and other odd jobs to make ends meet. He lives in a nearby settlement called Tekoa. And he said he's not opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state. What he is frustrated by is President Obama's apparent willingness to draw a new border that doesn't take into account, Jewish history.
"The Bible says that this is our land, the Quran says that this is our land, the Torah says that this is our land. We came back to where we supposed to be," Malul said. "It's like saying to the Americans, 'go back to Europe. It belongs to the Indians.' Excuse me."
Malul said he gets along with his Palestinian neighbors quite well. But he said there's a disconnect between politics and the reality on the ground.
"What is the problem?" he asked. "Why we need to be so cruel and move this guy from here and this guy from here and this guy from here? So, the right way to do it is to live together." He said of course there can be two states with everyone getting along. "Why not? Why not? We believe in (the existence of) Tekoa, and that the Palestinians should govern their own selves."
It's recess at a kindergarten in the settlement of Efrat. About 9,000 Israelis live there, in modern, suburban-style homes with beautiful views of Palestinian agricultural land. If President Obama does succeed in reviving the long-stalled peace process, the status of this settlement would become one of many issues for negotiators. But Efrat's mayor Oded Revivi, said he has little faith in that happening now.
"Who are we supposed to discuss this peace agreement with, when the Palestinians are having an internal battle between them? Whether Hamas are going to rule or Fatah is going to rule, we don't know, so we don't have a leader and we don't have a nation that we know what they want in order to determine with them our future."
Revivi said he respects President Obama ¹s apparent desire to move Israel and the Palestinians closer to peaceÅ but for now at least, he said it ¹s very difficult to see a clear path ahead. Palestinian officials have welcomed the idea of making the 1967 border a basis for negotiations. And they are calling on Israel ¹s prime minister to do the same. Then, they say, it will be possible to get back to peace talks. In the meantime though, the Palestinian Authority appears set to continue its effort to seek recognition for statehood at the United Nations in September.
Benjamin Netanyahu in Congress (BBC video)
Joshua Zimmerman and David Malul (photo: Alon Tuval)