Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that Palestinians deserve a better life "free of the humiliation of occupation" and in a state of their own.

"I promise you my personal commitment to that goal," Rice said at a dinner marking the third anniversary of the American Task Force on Palestine.

"There could be no greater legacy for America," Rice told the group, which describes itself as nonpartisan and supportive of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.

"The Palestinian people deserve a better life ... free of the humiliation of occupation," she said.

Rice has made five trips to the region as secretary of state, looking for ways to promote President Bush's call for a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

But peace talks are in suspension, and Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel, plays a leading role in Palestinian affairs.

And yet, Rice said "things are changing," that moderates are coming to the fore. She praised Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority with whom the Bush administration deals while boycotting Hamas.

The militant group, which the United States and European governments have labeled a terrorist organization, must choose between remaining what it is or turning into a peaceful political party, Rice said.

"You cannot be both," she said.