Press Conference of the President
James S. Brady Briefing Room
10:15 A.M. EST
Q Mr. President, is Mideast peacemaking dead with Hamas' big election
victory? And do you rule out dealing with the Palestinians if Hamas is the
THE PRESIDENT: Peace is never dead, because people want peace. I believe --
and that's why I articulated a two-state solution early in my
administration, so that -- as a vision for people to work toward, a solution
that recognized that democracy yields peace. And the best hope for peace in
the Middle East is two democracies living side-by-side.
So the Palestinians had an election yesterday, and the results of which
remind me about the power of democracy. You see, when you give people the
vote, you give people a chance to express themselves at the polls -- and if
they're unhappy with the status quo, they'll let you know. That's the great
thing about democracy, it provides a look into society.
And yesterday the turnout was significant, as I understand it. And there was
a peaceful process as people went to the polls, and that's positive. But
what was also positive is, is that it's a wake-up call to the leadership.
Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo. The people are
demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to be able
to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent
education and they can find health care.
And so the elections should open the eyes of the old guard there in the
Palestinian territories. I like the competition of ideas. I like people who
have to go out and say, vote for me, and here's what I'm going to do.
There's something healthy about a system that does that. And so the
elections yesterday were very interesting.
On the other hand, I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you
advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform. And I know
you can't be a partner in peace if you have a -- if your party has got an
armed wing. The elections just took place. We will watch very carefully
about the formation of the government. But I will continue to remind people
about what I just said, that if your platform is the destruction of Israel,
it means you're not a partner in peace. And we're interested in peace.
I talked to Condi twice this morning. She called President Abbas. She also
is going to have a conference call today about the Quartet -- with the
Quartet, about how to keep the process on the road to peace.
Q If I can follow up, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Are you cautioning Prime Minister Abbas not to resign? And --
THE PRESIDENT: We'd like him to stay in power. I mean, we'd like to stay in
office. He is in power, we'd like him to stay in office. Sorry to interrupt.
I knew this was a two-part question, so I tried to head it off.
Q Will this affect aid to the Palestinians? Will you be able to work with
Hamas if they're -- assuming they take on a large share of the government?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I made it very clear that the United States does not
support political parties that want to destroy our ally, Israel, and that
people must renounce that part of their platform. But the government hasn't
formed yet. They're beginning to talk about how to form the government. And
your question on Abbas was a good one. And our message to him was, we would
hope he would stay in office and work to move the process forward.
Again, I remind people, the elections -- democracy is -- can open up the
world's eyes to reality by listening to people. And the elections -- the
election process is healthy for society, in my judgment. In other words,
it's -- one way to figure out how to address the needs of the people is to
let them express themselves at the ballot box. And that's exactly what
happened yesterday. And you'll hear a lot of people saying, well, aren't we
surprised at the outcome, or this, that, or the other.
If there is corruption, I'm not surprised that people say, let's get rid of
corruption. If government hadn't been responsive, I'm not the least bit
surprised that people said, I want government to be responsive.
And so that was an interesting day yesterday in the -- as we're watching
liberty begin to spread across the Middle East.
Let's see here. Yes, David.
Q Mr. President, good morning. I have a different question, but I'd like to
pin you down on this point about Hamas because I don't think you've
completely answered it. Are you ruling out dealing with a Palestinian
government comprised, in part, of Hamas?
THE PRESIDENT: Dave, they don't have a government yet, so you're asking me
to speculate on what the government will look like. I have made it very
clear, however, that a political party that articulates the destruction of
Israel as part of its platform is a party with which we will not deal.