Approximately three hours after a deadly shooting attack in the West Bank that left four Israeli civilians dead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington on Tuesday, where he is scheduled to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later in the day.
Netanyahu was briefed on the deadly attack near Hebron, and instructed security services to act without restriction to apprehend the gunmen and to respond to those who dispatched them.
The prime minister is expected to tell Clinton that the "atrocious murder proves once again the need to stand firmly and without compromise for Israel's security needs. Terror will not determine the borders of Israel or the future of settlements."
Clinton launched the U.S. push for Mideast peace on Tuesday, holding one-on-one talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders before they sit down on Thursday for direct negotiations.
Clinton met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his hotel near Washington on Tuesday. She was set to see Netanyahu later in the day.
Clinton also was to meet the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan, who are sending their leaders to Washington to support the talks, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who represents the "Quartet" of Mideast peace mediators - the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.
U.S. President Barack Obama will host a dinner for the visiting leaders on Wednesday, seeking to boost momentum for Thursday's meeting, which will mark their first direct peace talks in 20 months and the start what Obama hopes will lead to a peace deal within a year despite deep skepticism.
"We will be clarifying today where the parties stand in advance of the meetings that they'll have," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said at a news briefing.
"We want to see not just a successful relaunch tomorrow but an understanding that, going forward, the leaders will meet on a regular basis."
Crowley said Washington expected "substantive discussions of the core issues at the heart of the process."
Political analysts are cautious about the prospects for the U.S.-backed talks, which represent Obama's riskiest foray into Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking - a goal that has eluded generations of U.S. presidents.
Obama has invited Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah to take part in Wednesday's White House events, expanding the dialogue to two influential Arab neighbors that already have peace deals with Israel.
There are a number of roadblocks to progress, including the future of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank once Israel's partial, self-imposed moratorium on new building expires on Sept. 26.
The Palestinians have threatened to pull out of the talks unless the moratorium is extended but Netanyahu, who heads a government dominated by pro-settler parties including his own, has given no sign he is ready to take that step.
Crowley said Clinton's meetings on Tuesday were expected to touch on "all of the issues" surrounding the talks, which the United States hopes can lead to a two-state deal for the Palestinians and Israel within a year.
Netanyahu, who has pushed along with the United States for direct talks without preconditions, has said the future of settlements should be resolved in negotiations.
Many analysts view that goal as unrealistic, citing Israeli and Palestinian internal political divisions and the complexities of issues, including settlements and the fate of Jerusalem, that have defied solution over decades of conflict.
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