Bush Sees Democracy at Work in Palestinian Territories

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - President Bush, who has led the push for democracy in the Middle East, took questions about Wednesday's democratic election in Palestinian areas -- an election that gives political power to the terrorist group Hamas.

"Peace is never dead, because people want peace," President Bush said at a Thursday morning news conference. He said democracy yields peace -- and the best hope for peace in the Middle East is "two democracies living side by side."

Bush said the Palestinian parliamentary election reminds him about the power of democracy, and he did his best to put a positive spin on things:

"If [people are] unhappy with the status quo, they'll let you know." He noted that the Palestinian turnout was large and peaceful -- and he called the election result a "wake-up call" for the Palestinian leadership.

"Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo. The people were demanding honest government," Bush said. "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."

President Bush said the Palestinian elections should "open the eyes of the old guard" in the Palestinian territories.

The United States will carefully watch what kind of government emerges in the Palestinian territories, Bush said. But, he emphasized, "If your platform is the destruction of Israel, it means you're not a partner for peace."

Bush said he's made it very clear that the U.S. does not support political parties that want to destroy Israel, a key U.S. ally.

President Bush said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will hold a conference call with the Quartet (the U.S., European Union, Russia and United Nations) to discuss the peace process in light of Wednesday's election.

He said his message to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is, "We hope he would stay in office," since Abbas has said he is committed to moving the peace process forward. Abbas was elected president last year.

President Bush called Wednesday an "interesting day, as we're watching liberty begin to spread across the Middle East."

And he refused to speculate on what the next Palestinian government will look like.

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