Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was just back from the Annapolis summit on November 27, where President George W. Bush tried to reboot the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
More importantly, last week was also the 60th anniversary of the United Nations vote that divided British-ruled Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.
That promised Arab state still doesn't exist, of course, but if the peace talks fail to produce it, then Israel is "finished," Olmert told the newspaper Haaretz.
"If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses," Olmert said, "and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights for Palestinians in the [Occupied] Territories, then the state of Israel is finished. "The Jewish organizations that are our power base in America will be the first to come out against us, because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all."
It was an extraordinary thing for a right-wing Israeli politician to say. Israelis usually erupt in fury if anybody suggests a comparison with apartheid-era South Africa.
However, Olmert wasn't talking about the country as it is now - 7 million people, of whom about 5.5 million are Jews - but about the country that would exist if 4 million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories remained under Israeli control indefinitely.
The Arab population both within Israel and in the Occupied Territories is growing much faster than the Jewish population, even counting Jewish immigration. Sometime soon, there will be more Palestinians than Jews within the borders of the former British mandate of Palestine (between the Jordan River and the sea) for the first time since the war of 1948-49.
For a long time, the "demographic question" did not trouble Israelis much.
There were still far fewer Palestinians in the late 1980s, when Yasser Arafat persuaded the Palestine Liberation Organization to adopt the goal of a Palestinian state within the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem (an area considerably smaller than what it was given under the UN partition plan of 1947).
Now the Palestinians are within sight of becoming a majority in the whole of the territory between the Jordan and the sea, and some of them are starting to abandon that compromise goal.
Let us have a single democratic state in all of these lands, they say, and we don't mind if Israel never returns to its 1967 borders.
We will just demand our equal democratic rights within this larger country that includes all the land now controlled by Israel. Our votes will change Israel from a "Jewish democracy" to a multi-ethnic, post-Zionist democratic state. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has already adopted this strategy.
That is the spectre that haunts Ehud Olmert and every other thinking Israeli. If you cannot make the two-state solution work, then you get the one-state solution.
Israel has the military power to deny the vote to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories indefinitely, but it will look more and more like apartheid-era South Africa, with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as its Bantustans. Even on the right, many Israelis are concluding that a Palestinian state is essential to the long-term survival of a Jewish state. But many others still think that a two-state deal is either undesirable or impossible, and hope that the current round of peace talks fails. They will probably not be disappointed, for Olmert's cabinet would collapse if he made any major concessions on Jerusalem or Palestinian refugees.
His negotiating partner, Mahmoud Abbas, only controls half of the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories.
Eighty-three per cent of Israelis think there will be no peace deal in the next year. Expectations among Palestinians are even lower. But if not now, when?
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 firstname.lastname@example.org