Rice on Palestinian Elections

 Israel's cabinet voted unanimously to allow Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote in Palestinian parliamentary elections on January 25th. But Israel banned the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas from campaigning in East Jerusalem. Hamas routinely calls for Israel's destruction.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was crucial that "there should be the ability of Palestinian people to participate in the elections." In a written statement, she welcomed the Israeli decision. She said, "Holding free and fair Palestinian Legislative Council elections on January 25 represents a key step in the process of building a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state." Ms. Rice also said that "it remains the view of the United States that there should be no place in the political process for groups or individuals who refuse to renounce terror and violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and disarm."

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that in a democratic process, groups have to make a choice:

"You can't say, on one hand, that you're going to reserve the right to use terror and violence and killing of innocent civilians to achieve your aims. And then, on the other hand, say you want to participate in a peaceful democratic political process. You need to resolve those fundamental contradictions."

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he hopes to start working on a final peace agreement with the Palestinians after Israel holds elections in March. The basis for the negotiations, says Mr. Olmert, would be the U.S.- backed plan known as the road map. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that "the ability of the Palestinians to engage the Israelis to move forward on the road map is obviously going to be dependent on having people in the governing structures who believe in the road map. And in order to negotiate with a party, you have to believe in its right to exist."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.

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Reflecting the Views of the U.S. Government as Broadcast on The Voice of America