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Associated Press
FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 file photo Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak attends a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister, Stavros Dimas in Athens. Barak abruptly proposed on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 that Israel consider "unilateral action" if long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians don't resume and produce a deal suggesting Israel may be thinking of withdrawing from part of the West Bank, as it did from the Gaza Strip seven years ago. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)

JERUSALEM — There are signs the Israeli government is considering taking unilateral action if peace talks with the Palestinians remain stalled, a move which could involve a withdrawal from parts of the West Bank along the lines of a 2005 pullout from the Gaza Strip.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a high-profile security conference on Wednesday that inaction is not an option and Israel cannot wait forever to reach an accord.

"Israel cannot afford to tread water," Barak said. If a deal "proves to be impossible, we have to consider a provisional arrangement or even unilateral action."

The statement reflected a growing sense of urgency in Israel about ending its 45-year entanglement with the Palestinians, even if no peace deal is possible.

Two decades of on-again, off-again peace talks have failed to yield an agreement, and negotiations have been frozen for more than three years. And as time passed, a shift of thinking has quietly occurred in Israel: The occupation of Palestinian lands may ultimately be bad for Israel simply because ruling millions of Arabs will demographically sink the Jewish state.

The new twist: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has grown increasingly vocal about the need to separate from the Palestinians, now has a broad coalition freeing him of nationalists who claim biblical rights to the West Bank.

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Netanyahu, who for years rejected most concessions to the Palestinians, has also raised concerns in recent months that continued control of the more than 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank would threaten Israel's character as a democracy with a Jewish majority.

Early this month, he shored up his coalition by bringing the main opposition party, Kadima, into the government. Netanyahu now presides over a coalition comprising 94 of parliament's 120 members, meaning he is no longer reliant on hard-liners to preserve his majority. The formation of this new supermajority has raised speculation that Netanyahu might soon come forward with a diplomatic initiative to end the deadlock.