NEW YORK - Former US President Jimmy Carter has urged President Barack Obama to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine before Donald Trump takes office in January.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Carter writes that Palestine, which already has diplomatic recognition from 137 countries, needs to achieve full United Nations membership. “I am convinced that the United States can still shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before a change in presidents, but time is very short,” wrote the 92-year-old former president.

The Obama administration has been engaged in efforts for a so-called two-state solution during his tenure but to no avail as the Israeli regime has remained intransigent in its expansive policies as well as the harsh crackdown on the Palestinian population.

“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,” wrote the 39th American president.

He complained that “Israel is building more and more settlements, displacing Palestinians and entrenching its occupation of Palestinian lands. Over 4.5 million Palestinians live in these occupied territories, but are not citizens of Israel. Most live largely under Israeli military rule, and do not vote in Israel’s national elections.”

Carter added he was “certain” that the recognition of a Palestinian state “would make it easier” for other countries to follow along, and “clear the way for a Security Council resolution on the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The 15-member council, he noted, “should reaffirm the illegality of all Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 borders, while leaving open the possibility that the parties could negotiate modifications.”

Much of the international community regards the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.

“A strong Security Council resolution would underscore that the Geneva Conventions and other human rights protections apply to all parties at all times. It would also support any agreement reached by the parties regarding Palestinian refugees,” Carter said.

He further warned that “This is the best - now, perhaps, the only - means of countering the one-state reality that Israel is imposing on itself and the Palestinian people.”

Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank, East al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, with East al-Quds as the capital. They are also demanding that Israel withdraw from the Palestinian lands occupied in a 1967 war. The Tel Aviv regime, however, has refused to return to the 1967 borders and is unwilling to discuss the issue of al-Quds.

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state” despite strong opposition from the Israeli regime and the US.

“Recognition of Palestine and a new Security Council resolution are not radical new measures, but a natural outgrowth of America’s support for a two-state solution,” Carter said.

The former president came under harsh criticism in Israel over his 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, in which he wrote, “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East."

In 2013, he called on the European Union to label products from the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, saying they are illegal under international law

In 2009, Obama reaffirmed elements of the 1978 Camp David agreement, signed by Israel's Menachem Begin and Egypt's Anwar Sadat, which called for the "withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied" during the 1967 war. Obama called for a total freeze on settlements illegally constructed by Israel on Palestinian territory, and in 2011 said the borders of Israel and Palestine "should be based on the 1967 lines."

Carter argued that because Palestinians are being displaced and many live under Israeli military rule but do not vote in Israel's national elections while 600,000 Israeli settlers in Palestine have Israeli citizenship and the benefits of the country's laws, Israeli policy is "hastening a one-state reality that could destroy Israeli democracy and will result in intensifying international condemnation of Israel."

He said he continues to support a two-state solution, and The Carter Center will soon host discussions between Israeli and Palestinian representatives "searching for an avenue toward peace." A resolution must be made that acknowledges the right of both Israel and Palestine to "live in peace and security," Carter said, as well as the demilitarization of the Palestinian state and a possible peacekeeping force under the UN.