So said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack in a State Department press briefing yesterday (thanks to Teri).
QUESTION: How concerned are you that the recent violence in Gaza is going to — both among Palestinians themselves and between the Israelis and Palestinians, going to set you back in terms of your efforts to move this forward?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the — certainly, violence perpetrated by Hamas, as we have seen recently, doesn’t further the cause of peace. What is does is — resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians and it also underscores the importance of reaching those political accommodations on the Israeli-Palestinian track among those individuals who are committed to peace like Prime Minister Olmert, like President Abbas, and the people around him and that work directly for him.
We would hope that Hamas would make another choice; in making a choice for peace, in making a choice for a Palestinian state, because the only way that they’re going to see that is via the negotiating table. They’re not going to see it by launching Qassam rockets into Israel. They’re not going to see it by attacking the legitimate security forces of the Palestinian Authority. They’re not going to see it by sending young people armed with suicide vests to blow up other Israeli youngsters. So —
QUESTION: But you —
MR. MCCORMACK: The Palestinians themselves are going to have to resolve that central contradiction where you have a group like Hamas that is committed to the use of terror, but also says it wants to be involved in a democratic process. The Palestinians are going to have to resolve that, but to bring it back, what all the — what the violence underscores is the fact that it is all the more important that all those committed to peace in the region work actively and do everything that they can to move forward the process of peace.
QUESTION: Would you say that President Abbas is doing all that he can to stop this violence in terms of Hamas attacks from Gaza into Israel? Because it seems as if, anyway, that this is leading to another escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians that will set you even — back even further.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, President Abbas is committed to ending violence. He has never — he has always been somebody that has shunned the use of terror. He has counseled against it. He is somebody who has actively worked for peace. He is somebody who has actively advocated for negotiations as opposed to the use of violence to realize a Palestinian state. We are urging all parties to exercise restraint. We understand the Israeli Government has a right to defend itself and they have explained that their actions, just over the past day or so, have been in reaction to stopping — trying to stop further rocket launches into Israeli territory, rocket launches that have injured Israeli citizens.
But we’ve also urged them to consider the consequences of their actions in defending themselves on Palestinian infrastructure as well as on what effect it might have on the prospects for moving forward the political process. But we know that Prime Minister Olmert is somebody who is committed to working actively on that political track.
QUESTION: But I mean, we all know about President Abbas’ commitment —
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: — to peace and his stated preference for negotiations, things like that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: But in terms of this recent bout of violence, in terms of cracking down on Hamas militants —
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: — putting pressure on the Hamas part of the unity government to put their own — use their own leverage against the Hamas militants, utilizing the security services — I mean, is he doing all he can to stop this from spiraling out of —
MR. MCCORMACK: We believe that President Abbas is somebody who is committed to (a) the political negotiating track, (b) doing everything that he can to break up terror networks, to stop those attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip against Israel, and somebody who is committed also to building up a professional security force in not only the West Bank, but in the Gaza Strip. Now that’s a work in progress and it’s also a security force that was attacked by these Hamas-affiliated and Hamas forces.
So we believe that he is somebody who is doing the right things. Now we always encourage him to do everything he possibly can to do more, but we believe he is somebody who is committed to doing all those right things.