ROME – Tarek Heggy, a secular Egyptian dissident, writer, scholar and former multinational executive – and rising star in Egypt’s new political horizon – says he is optimistic about the future of democracy in Egypt, and has no doubt that the Egyptian Army will honor the Camp David peace agreements.

“Israel is not the cause of our problems” he told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview after addressing the Foreign Affairs Committee of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies last week. “We ourselves are the cause – having tolerated for decades medieval monarchies or military dictatorships in the form of republics where rulers were ‘owners’ and the people ‘objects.’”

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Heggy said that “what started in Tunisia was replicated in Egypt, and the 10 million who poured into the streets were concerned solely with karama (pride and dignity), with rights to freedom, justice, opportunity and equal citizenship. No foreign flag was burnt or trampled. It was a revolution triggered by technology users focusing on local reforms and above all, on the will for an improved quality of life.”

Exiled and boycotted by Egyptian media for the past 20 years because of his opposition to “the Mubarak family’s oligarchy of power and wealth,” Heggy now plans to launch his “” (ENP) in the competitive race for parliamentary seats following presidential elections next October 14.

He claims support from at least three groups representing nearly one-third of Egypt’s 85 million citizens – including religious and ethnic minorities (such as Christians, Baha’is and Nubians) totaling 12-14 million; women demanding equal rights and “liberal men” (the “Facebook and Twitter people”) – another 7-10 million.

“Our party’s vision statement responds pragmatically to demands for modernity. We must drop all ideologies, whether political or religious. We aim, through good management, to nurture scientific research (R&D), modernize the educational system, promote human rights (women’s and minority rights in particular), create jobs and, especially, build a successful bulwark against Islamism and all extremisms.”

Heggy said he had visited Israel “many times.” Asked about his thoughts regarding Israel’s future in the region, Heggy listed his geopolitical convictions.

“The new Middle East will ultimately follow the path paved by Sadat,” he said. “There is no room for war and fighting. We must leave behind all hatred and ideologies, pan-Arabism or Islamism. Hatred of Israel has been fanned by the media’s pouring oil on the fire. Education is of primary importance in changing mentalities.”

He said he considered Iran as “the most dangerous player in the Middle East: a theocracy preaching against modernity, with hegemonic ambitions.”

Specifically, Heggy said “a settlement of the Israeli-Syrian conflict would lower Iran’s ambitions in the Gulf, improve the atmosphere between Arabs and Israelis and be very healthy for the entire region, helping to stop the spread of Sunni and Shi’ite fundamentalism and ending the unacceptable role of Hezbollah in Lebanon – a role contrary to the concept of a modern state, with double instead of unified military and political structures.”

Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, he said: “An Israeli leader, similar to [Yitzhak] Rabin, is needed. I know it is difficult, but it would help if Israel could confirm the ultimate goal of a Palestinian state on most of the territories occupied June 6, 1967. A significant signal would do much to diminish the unfortunate anti-Israel sentiments in Arab populations.”

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