An elected Hamas government in the Palestinian territories may be preferable to the group operating outside the power structure and carrying out terrorist actions, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday.
Rice, speaking to a pro-democracy forum, made the point in arguing that that the United States should not retreat from its advocacy of democracy abroad when elections do not turn out well from the US point of view. Referring to Hamas, Rice said, "I am not so sure that it is better to have these groups running the streets, masked, with guns rather than having them have to face voters and having to deliver."
While the election that produced the Hamas victory was free and fair, she said Hamas has failed in its responsibility to obtain international acceptability. The result, Rice said, has been that the Palestinian people basically have been deprived of international assistance.
"The interesting point is would we have ever seen Hamas confronted with that dilemma without elections and without coming in to govern," Rice said.
She added that the international community should do more to convince Middle East groups that enter politics to give up terror.
While expressing disappointment with the drift toward repression in Egypt, Rice said the 2004 presidential elections produced some lasting benefits. "I don't believe that Egypt will ever go completely back to where it was in the wake of competitive presidential elections," She said.
"The kind of open debate that took place in Egypt, everywhere from in the press to cafes in Egypt, I'm told by people who were there, you don't ever really put that back in a bottle."