The Commonwealth, Israel and Palestine

Britain's newly signed Commonwealth Charter could provide a possible framework for peace between Israel and Palestine

British flags 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
British flags 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
On March 11, 2013, Queen Elizabeth formally signed the “Commonwealth Charter” - a document that delineates, for the first time, 16 core values shared by the nations of the Commonwealth and their governments. 
The Commonwealth is an aspect of contemporary life that most people know little about. Yet the Commonwealth has the potential to exert an enormous positive power on global politics as is further attested by the recent charter. However, what it has failed to demonstrate so far, and still may lack, is the drive to provide positive leadership on the world stage in favor of the core values it professes.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 nations, most of whom, but not all, were once part of the British Empire.  Regardless of their individual constitutions, all of them agree to recognize the current British monarch as head of the association.  The members have a combined population of 2.1 billion, almost a third of the world’s population.  Beyond the ties of history, language, and institutions, what unites this diverse group of nations, are the association’s values of democracy, freedom, peace, and the rule of law. 
Essentially, these are the basis of the 16 core values now enshrined in the charter.  They include a commitment by Commonwealth leaders to uphold democracy and human rights, as expressed by the declaration “we are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination”; to advance international peace and security, as the charter states,” “We reiterate our absolute condemnation of all acts of terrorism in whatever form or wherever they occur or by whomsoever perpetrated.”; to promote tolerance and respect, freedom of expression, the rule of law, good governance; to protect the environment, provide access to health, education, and food for all; to promote gender equality, and to recognize the positive role of young people in promoting these and other values.
The Commonwealth is not a political union, but an intergovernmental organization in which countries having diverse social, political and economic backgrounds are regarded as equals. Alongside having these shared values, the Commonwealth nations also share strong trade links. It has been shown that trade between another Commonwealth member increases as much as 50 percent in comparison to a non-member.
Five countries are currently seeking membership into the Commonwealth, but neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority (PA) are among them. As part of the former British mandated Palestine, both would have a stronger claim than, say, Mozambique or Rwanda, which are current members, or Algeria which has applied to join.
Could a stated intention to apply for membership into the Commonwealth by both Israel and a sovereign Palestine be a positive factor in the process of negotiating a solution to the Israel-Palestine dispute? 
One organization that would probably support the idea – though it might appear way off the map at the moment − would be the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association (IBCA), an organization that was established in 1953,  with the aim of encouraging, developing and extending social, cultural, and economic relations between Israel and the Commonwealth. Regular meetings, led by prominent politicians, diplomats, and academics and attended by many members of the diplomatic corps, have fostered a continuing dialogue between representatives of Israel and the nations of the Commonwealth.
And indeed Israel might have come close to applying to the Commonwealth.  As recently as 2007 the Jewish Journal :
As a former British colony, Israel is being considered for Commonwealth membership. Commonwealth officials said this week they had set up a special committee to consider membership applications by several Middle Eastern and African nations. Speaking on condition of anonymity, diplomats said those interested in applying include Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which exist on land ruled by a British Mandate from 1918 to 1948. An Israeli official did not deny the report, but said, ‘This issue is not on our agenda right now.
Perhaps now it should be.  With the renewal of the peace process looming –fostered by US President Barack Obama’s forthcoming visit to the region, as well as a new Israeli government about to take office with peace on the agenda − some new ideas are needed to burnish the age-old arguments.  Whatever Israel’s enemies may claim, there is no doubt that Israel’s core values align completely to those of the Commonwealth.  The PA could make a reasonable case for aspiring to most of them as well, but the same couldn't be said of Hamas, the current de facto government of Gaza, which would be present in a sovereign Palestine. Nonetheless, in this case as with all others the PA will act as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”
The offer of membership into the Commonwealth to both Israel and, possibly, a sovereign Palestine, would provide a major boost in for peace talks, a framework where the two-state solution might flourish. It would incorporate acceptance of the peace agreements made by a swathe of nations from every continent. It would open new markets and promise flourishing trade relations between them. Most importantly, it would grant both parties membership into an association dedicated to democracy, freedom, and peaceful co-existence.. The writer is the author of “One Year in the History of Israel and Palestine” (2011) and writes the blog “A Mid-East Journal” (