Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says establishing an independent Palestinian state is critical to peace in the Middle East.

In interviews about his new book, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, Mr. Carter says he still believes that it is necessary to have a two-state solution, in which Arab countries recognize Israel's right to exist.

As part of a peace plan, Mr. Carter says Israel must withdraw from most of the land it captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Mr. Carter told The Associated Press that Israel will face a "catastrophe" unless it revives the peace process and allows an independent Palestine.

He also told U.S. public radio, NPR, that U.S. President Barack Obama's appointment of a special mediator to the region, former Senator George Mitchell, "holds good promise that something is going to be done."

Mr. Carter met with Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal twice last year, before the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, about a peaceful resolution between Israel and the militant group.  Hamas rules Gaza and does not recognize Israel's right to exist.  The U.S. and European Union classify it as a terrorist group.

The former president says Meshaal agreed in talks to live in peace with Israel in exchange for the free flow of supplies into Gaza.

Mr. Carter has been a long-time advocate for peace in the Middle East.  As president, Mr. Carter mediated the 1978 Camp David Accords which paved the way for peace between Israel and Egypt.  He has since taken positions critical of some of Israel's policies.

In a 2006 book, Mr. Carter described Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories as a "system of apartheid."

Some information for this report was provided by AP