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Obama needs to recognise Palestine, urges ex-US president Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter called for a UN Security Council resolution that would reaffirm the illegality of all Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 borders
Carter says US recognition of Palestinian State paves the way for the two-state solution (AFP)

Former US President Jimmy Carter called on outgoing President Barack Obama to recognise Palestine as a state before he leaves office.

Carter said the president’s efforts to resolve the conflict based on a negotiated two-state solution face uncertainty when Obama hands power to Donald Trump.  

"The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on Jan. 20 is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership," Carter wrote in an article published in the New York Times on Monday.

He cited the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which he brokered in 1978. The agreement stipulates that Israel withdraws its military forces from territory occupied in "the recent conflict".

Israel captured Gaza and the West Bank - land of the would-be Palestinian state - in the 1967 war. While it pulled out of Gaza in 2005, Israel maintains a heavy military presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where it continues to build and expand settlements where only Israelis can live.

Carter, who has condemned the Israeli colonisation of the West Bank in his 2006 book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," drew contrast between the 4.5 million Palestinians living under the occupation and the 600,000 Israeli settlers who "enjoy the benefits of Israeli citizenship".

The former president wrote that US recognition of Palestine would pave the way for a UN Security Council to act towards the two-state solution.

"The Security Council should pass a resolution laying out the parameters for resolving the conflict," he said. "It should reaffirm the illegality of all Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 borders, while leaving open the possibility that the parties could negotiate modifications."

He also called for security guarantees for both sides and the demilitarisation of the Palestinian state.

Carter added that the Security Council resolution would support a negotiated agreement on Palestinian refugees displaced in 1948.

He said US recognition of the Palestinian state would help reverse the one-state reality Israel is imposing on itself and the Palestinian people.

Obama has had a rocky relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, highlighted by the latter’s visit to US Congress last year, where he lobbied against the Iran nuclear deal that was negotiated by the White House.

Despite denouncing settlements repeatedly, Obama signed the biggest-ever military aid package to Israel in September.

Trump last week said he would love to broker a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

It was reported that he will seek the help of his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner to restart the negotiations.

In March, Trump gave a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, where he slammed Obama for “applying pressure” on Israel. He also vowed that Israel will not be treated as a "second class-citizen" by Washington if he wins.

After the election, Trump's legal adviser Jason Greenblatt said the president-elect does not view settlements as an obstacle to peace.

In October, a different Trump adviser said Jewish settlements in the West Bank are not illegal.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a right-wing party leader, has said that Trump’s election victory means the end of the prospect of a Palestinian state.

Israeli politicians fear that Obama may support or at least not veto a UN Security Council Resolution recognising Palestine as a state.

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