KWAME HOLMAN: The first question posed to President Bush at a news conference this morning was whether Hamas' victory had crushed hopes for Middle East peace.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Peace is never dead, because people want peace. I believe -- and that's why I articulated a two-state solution early in my administration so that -- as a vision for people to work toward, a -- a solution that recognized that democracy yields peace and the best hope for peace in the Middle East is two democracies living side by side.
So the Palestinians had an election yesterday. And the results of which remind me about the power of democracy.
You see, when you give people the vote, you give people a chance to express themselves at the polls, they -- and if they're unhappy with the status quo, they'll let you know. That's the great thing about democracy. It provides a look into society.
And yesterday, the turnout was significant, as I understand it. And there was a peaceful process as people went to the polls. And that's positive. But what was also positive is that it's a wakeup call to the leadership.
Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo. The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to be able to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find health care. And so the elections should open the eyes of the old guard there in the Palestinian territories.
I like the competition of ideas. I like people that have to go out and say, "Vote for me and here's what I'm going to do." There's something healthy about a system that does that.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Mr. Bush made it clear that peace in the region was in jeopardy with the militant Hamas in power.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform. And I know you can't be a partner in peace if you have a -- if your party has got an armed wing.
And so the elections just took place. We will watch very carefully about the formation of the government. But I will continue to remind people about what I just said: That if your platform is the destruction of Israel, it means you're not a partner in peace. And we're interested in peace.
KWAME HOLMAN: He urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to stay in power.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We'd like him to stay in power. I mean, we'd like to stay in office. He is in power; we'd like him to stay in office.
STEVE HOLLAND, Reuters: Will this affect aid to the Palestinians? And will you be able to work with Hamas, assuming they take on a large share of the government?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I made it very clear that the United States does not support political parties that want to destroy our ally, Israel, and that people must renounce that part of their platform.
But the government hadn't formed yet. They're beginning to talk about how to form the government. And your question on Abbas was a good one. And our message to him was, we would hope he would stay in office and work to move the process forward.
Again, I remind people, the elections -- democracy is -- can open up the world's eyes to reality by listening to people. And the elections -- the election process is healthy for society, in my judgment.
In other words, one way to figure out how to address the needs of the people is to let them express themselves at the ballot box. And that's exactly what happened yesterday. And you'll hear a lot of people say, "Well, aren't we surprised at the outcome?" or this, that or the other. If there is corruption, I'm not surprised that people say, "Let's get rid of corruption." If government hadn't been responsive, I'm not the least bit surprised if people say, "I want government to be responsive."
And so it was an interesting day yesterday in the -- as we're watching liberty begin to spread across the Middle East.
JIM LEHRER: And what of reaction in the rest of the world? Well Ray Suarez was in a particularly opportune place to sample that today: The World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. I spoke with him a short while ago.
JIM LEHRER: Ray, hello.
RAY SUAREZ: Hi.
JIM LEHRER: All right, first of all, set the scene there: tell us about this summit, what its purpose is and who was actually there.
RAY SUAREZ: It was begun decades ago by a Swiss academic, an economist, a business professor who thought that many of the world's problems could be solved if only you could get the world's problem solvers to hang around together for a week.
So he convinced a critical mass of them to come to a small alpine village in southern Switzerland and talk about the problems of the world. And when you get a couple of big names, they bring more big names and then you get the incredible five days, which is now the World Economic Forum in Davos.
JIM LEHRER: Now, who's there now? What kind of people are there now?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, you've got the secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan, the president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo. I ran into the prime minister of Turkey as he and his delegation arrived this afternoon to start talks; Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, various members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, professors, heads of business schools, even heads of whole worldwide churches.
Today one of my lunch companions was Bartholomew, the ecumenical patriarch, the leader of the world's Orthodox Christians.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Before today had there been much buzz among all these folks about the possibility that Hamas might win the election, the Palestinian elections?
RAY SUAREZ: When the Palestinian elections came up in conversation, which they did frequently, Hamas's chances were not really given a lot of hope.
People assumed that they would do very well -- that Fatah would hang on either by honest means or just out of habit. No one -- and I'm talking about a lot of Middle East experts, people who live in the region -- gave Hamas a shot at winning a majority of the seats.
JIM LEHRER: Now, what has been the reaction now to the fact that they did so?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, it's almost been wonderment. People are talking to each other and saying --more or less -- can you believe it, they really did it? This evening an international affairs professor was telling me that people he has spoken to from Hamas said that they didn't even expect to win the election. And some of them didn't even want to win the election figuring a spell in government as a minority party, perhaps with a few cabinet ministries, some actual government responsibilities would prepare them to take power down the road.
JIM LEHRER: Now you've got -- what about some people from the Middle East that you've talked to or have heard from, what has been their reaction to this in the Arab and Muslim world?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, from the Arab and Muslim world the reaction has been cautious but very interesting. Everybody has said -- these are heads of state for the most -- part look, they won, and we have to respect that. But they also expressed a real desire for the killing to end in that part of the world. And that necessitated both Hamas, which not only is opposed to the existence of the state of Israel but is opposed to the existence of the Palestinian territories and a two-state solution, is opposed to the Palestinian Authority's way of running government and dealing with the Israelis over the years.
Now that they are in charge, the opinion was generally expressed by people like Pervez Musharraf, the president of the Iraqi National Assembly, even the queen of Jordan -- that Hamas would have to deal with Israel just as Israel would have to deal with the reality of Hamas in power.
JIM LEHRER: President Karzai of Afghanistan is there. What has he said about it?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, he said interesting things. He said first that the will of the people must be respected. But now that Hamas was voted into office, they should have the courage to treat Israel as a nation that has the right to exist just as the Palestinians have the right to exist as a nation.
President Karzai said we should wish that the people of Israel would recognize the needs of the Palestinians, that that need is understood by everyone inside and outside the region, and that there's way too much emphasis on the politicians.
Toward the end of his answer he started to get almost poetic about how the future of the region was not in the hands of politicians but of mothers and fathers, children, family members, people who get up and do their jobs every day for a living. We should look at people on both sides that way, not on the basis of liking or not liking this or that government.
JIM LEHRER: Finally Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the U.N., what has been heard from him?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, he has to be very cautious because he plays, obviously, as the world's super diplomat a kind of middle role here. He can't be expressing too much jubilation for one side or another.
One of the first things he did after the results were confirmed was to call the leaders of Hamas and congratulate them on their victory, also express a hope for peace in the region. The so-called "quartet" that includes the United States, the European Union and Russia, will be meeting next week to talk about the future of Israel and a future Palestinian state, and of course Hamas will be the lead of their discussions.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Well, Ray, thank you very much.
RAY SUAREZ: Good to talk to you.