Could annexing Palestinian towns minus citizenship be apartheid?

There certainly cannot be any comparison to classic apartheid in South Africa where there was one country and the minority systematically suppressed the majority because of a racist ideology.

WHO WILL rule this? Palestinians wave flags at traffic on Highway 1 leading to the Dead Sea (photo credit: REUTERS)
WHO WILL rule this? Palestinians wave flags at traffic on Highway 1 leading to the Dead Sea
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has his way, sometime in July, Israel will annex portions of the West Bank. The plan appears to include Palestinian enclaves, while avoiding applying Israeli law to those areas.
Under the Trump administration's peace plan as rolled out in January, all Palestinians will become citizens of a future Palestinian state that, it is hoped, will emerge from negotiations between the parties within four years.
But what happens to those Palestinians if the negotiations break down? And what is the status of those Palestinians during the period they wait for their new state to be established? 
Could such a situation constitute apartheid?
First, the term apartheid must be defined.
There certainly cannot be any comparison to classic apartheid in South Africa where there was one country and the minority whites systematically suppressed the majority blacks out of a racist ideology.
Israelis and Palestinians are two different peoples who were never part of one country. They have been in a multi-sided political-land-religious conflict for around 100 years that is also part of the broader Israeli-Arab conflict.
Israel has proposed peace deals to the Palestinians (perfect or not) and Arab citizens of Israel have full citizenship rights, even if there is criticism that their sectors and some other minority Jewish sectors are neglected in comparative terms when it comes to state funding.
Apartheid has at least two meanings: one as a social phenomenon and one as a war crime under the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute.
As a social phenomenon, countries like Saudi Arabia and Myanmar are sometimes accused of apartheid due to allegations of institutionalizing discrimination against certain minorities on racist grounds.
Some critics have long accused Israel of the same, but these critics have often ignored the rights granted to Israeli-Arabs and the significant threats to Israeli security posed by Hamas rockets and Palestinian terrorism in general.
In addition, as long as the Oslo peace process of the mid-1990s was not completely dead, there has been an idea that the Palestinian Authority was responsible for Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel was responsible for Jews there and the fate of mixed areas would eventually be resolved in negotiations.
Will this change though if Israel annexes portions of the West Bank including Palestinian areas and does not extend citizenship to those residents?
The argument of those in favor of the change would be that annexation is a permanent act that negates further negotiations and sets all of the parties’ rights in place. If Palestinians are annexed, the argument would be that they need to be granted citizenship and the right to vote either in Israel or in Palestine.
If they have citizenship and the right to vote in Palestine, then they could be compared to some enclaves in various European countries that are surrounded by a different country.
Incidentally, the Trump plan also leaves 15 Jewish enclaves surrounded by the future Palestine.
But if annexed Palestinians have neither – an apartheid argument in the social sense could be raised.
In a legal war crime sense though, this would not be enough. There would need to be proof both that Israel was carrying out systematic discrimination along with another crime such as murder, enslavement, forcible transfer or arbitrary imprisonment.
Put simply, Israel has no systemic policy to commit any such crimes. Still, there is an ongoing and unresolved debate before the International Criminal Court about certain demolitions of Palestinian homes and the settlement enterprise.
But even the argument of apartheid in a social sense has holes in it.
If Israel follows the Trump plan, then the whole point is that, within four years, all Palestinians would be citizens and have the right to vote in a Palestinian state.
Further, if the PA held elections in the interim, no one has said they would prevent the Palestinians from voting. In all likelihood, Israel would support such voting as it did the last time the PA held elections over a decade ago.
In other words, whether the Palestinians get to vote or not would most likely be at the feet of the PA’s ability or inability to hold elections because of their fight with Hamas, not a problem caused by Israel.
As for the Palestinians’ general status in the interim four years, the issue is a messy one.
But conflicts often lead to messy interim arrangements, and the main question is really where the process is leading.
So really the only problem scenario is one in which there is no Palestinian state after the four-year period stipulated in the Trump plan.
In such a scenario, Israel would likely need to either reverse some of its annexation measures or give the annexed Palestinians provisional citizenship and voting rights until such time as a Palestinian state would be formed.
After all of this, it is unlikely that Israel is nearing a dilemma reaching the level of apartheid. At most, it might have to make some hard decisions four years from now, and even then, only if negotiations fail.