Amr Moussa has emerged from Egypt's revolutionary tumult as the front-runner in the upcoming presidential election. But for this quintessential establishment man -- he served as foreign minister under Hosni Mubarak and then as secretary-general of the Arab League -- capturing the top seat in Egyptian politics is fraught with pitfalls. The revolutionaries on the streets scorn his ties with the previous regime, and the new kingmakers in Cairo -- the Islamists and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces -- are sure to demand concessions in return for their support.
It's not easy to walk that line, particularly with all the hot-button issues in Egypt's future. Here, Moussa tackles them all in an exclusive interview with Foreign Policy: the military's future role in politics, the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, and the upcoming U.S. presidential election, among others. In his discussion with Adel Abdel Ghafar, he says that certain aspects of the pact with Israel should be "revisited" and admits that he would vote to give President Barack Obama another term in office -- but only because of his misgivings about Obama's Republican challengers.
Foreign Policy: Do you believe the Egyptian Army should ultimately be under civilian control?
Amr Moussa: A state is a state. It has one head, not two. It has one legislative institution, not two. It has one government, not two.
FP: There are several examples of how countries transitioned from military to civilian rule -- Indonesia, some Latin American countries, even the Turkish experience is noteworthy. In Egypt, do you think we will ever get rid of military interference in public life, or will there always be a presence of the military institution?
AM: A revolution occurred on Jan. 25
that transitioned us from "dictatorial rule"
to democratic rule. This democratic government will not be far away from the military, as this is the military of Egypt -- an integral and original part of the Egyptian administration. We do not say that the military will leave -- no, they will take their own path as one of the integral Egyptian institutions.
We shouldn't frame the debate within a provocative context such as you suggested, with Indonesia and the Latin American countries. We have passed this stage and are moving forward on a democratic path not ruled by military forces. The military exists to defend Egypt and is a force for stability in any country; therefore we have to approach the relationship between the military and the state from a positive side rather in than a negative, provocative way.
FP: In your view, do the Camp David Accords [signed between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1978] need adjustment?
AM: First of all, Camp David is not what is applied now. Camp David ended as a background paper. What governs the relationship between the two states is the Egyptian-Israeli treaty [signed in 1979]. And I believe that we should adhere to this treaty, as we do with all of our international commitments and treaties, as long as the other party adheres to it too.
However, within a security context in Sinai, the treaty has to be revisited. Unfortunately, the treaty in its current form has led to the Egyptian government's inability to enforce the rule of law in Sinai and on the border. Egypt as a sovereign state should be able to fully secure its borders.
FP: Some people are calling to cut the natural gas supply to Israel, while others are calling on modifying its prices. Where do you stand?
AM: We have to modify the prices according to global prices. This is not only an issue with Israel -- we also export natural gas to Jordan. It is in our national interest to price the natural gas according to global prices, and today's prices are much higher than the prices agreed on.
FP: What do you think of the Islamist majority in parliament? Does it worry you, as it worries many people in Egypt who fear religious rule?
AM: Let me tell you, worrying is a part of politics, especially in such a crucial period like this. However, we said we will go down the democratic path. Democracy produced the current parliament. You cannot have democracy and reject its results.
But we have to decide what would be our "modus operandi" in dealing with these results, and this is what preoccupies me. On what basis do we deal with the Islamist forces? We do not live through normal circumstances now that we can play politics. Therefore I would be looking to cooperate and work with the parliament.
FP: As a previous foreign minister, how do you think Egyptian foreign policy should evolve following the revolution?
AM: Egyptian foreign policy collapsed over the past several years. It has to be rebuilt for it to play its rightful role.
The Arab world will not be led by Turkey or Iran; it has to be led by the Arab countries themselves. And Egypt, as the largest Arab country, should have a leadership role in that regard. This will require a new type of leadership in the 21st century -- you cannot lead if you are not advanced technologically; you cannot lead if you have no real development program.