WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is dismissing the strong showing of the terrorist group Hamas (search) in Gaza elections.
"What matters is what people actually do," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
The Palestinians must end violence if they want to achieve statehood, Boucher said, while once again denouncing Hamas as a terror group.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plans to turn Gaza (search) over to the Palestinians later this year. All Israeli troops and Jewish settlement in the territory would be withdrawn.
Hamas, which has carried out a number of bombings against Israel, won an overwhelming victory in local elections in Gaza towns, election officials said Friday.
The Hamas victory reflected widespread support for the Islamic movement even as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (search) called for an end to violence against Israel.
"The point that I have to keep making is that what matters is what people actually do," Boucher said.
"Certainly, we have not changed our view of Hamas as an organization. We think it needs to be put out of the terrorism business, and that remains very clear for us," he said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) is planning to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the region early next month. She will try to gauge the interest the two sides may have in holding negotiations for a peace accord.
On Friday, Shlomo Yanai, a retired Israel general who was a security adviser to former Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, outlined security measures he said Israel should take in any peace accord with the Palestinians.
These include establishing the right to dispatch Israeli troops into the Palestinian state in the event of crisis, Israeli overflights and demilitarization of the state.
Yanai, speaking at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, said security was the core concern for Israel in moving toward Palestinian statehood.
Four years of violence have exhausted Israelis and Palestinians, he said, and there was now a "window of opportunity" to reach an agreement. But, Yanai said, "this is a small one, a very fragile one."