JERUSALEM — Palestinian leaders on Tuesday rebuffed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's efforts to kick-start peace talks as Israel warned that more violence may be just over the horizon.
Rice returned to the Middle East on a 32-hour diplomatic damage-control mission to keep alive the Bush administration's hopes of brokering a peace deal by year's end.
Peace talks skidded to a halt on the eve of Rice's arrival after an exceptionally bloody Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip that left more than 110 people dead.
Standing alongside Rice after talks Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas politely ignored her public prodding to resume negotiations with Israel.
In Washington, President Bush said there is "plenty of time" to get a Mideast peace deal in the 10 months before he leaves office.
"This is a process that always has two steps forward and one step back," Bush said after meeting at the White House with Jordan's King Abdullah II. "We just need to make sure that it's just one step back."
Israeli leaders, meanwhile, warn that currently scaled-back military action may be little more than a lull in the government's attempt to quash the power of the militant Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
"We are going to change the rules of this game," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told diplomats Monday. "We are not going to play according to their rules. We are not willing to accept this equation anymore."
During stops in Cairo and the West Bank, Rice sought to assuage Palestinian anger over the Israeli operation by publicly, though politely, chiding Israel.
"It is extremely important that they remember that there has to be a day after, a partner to work with, and that innocent people who have the bad fortune to have to live under Hamas control should not be subject to injury and death," Rice said with Abbas by her side. "There should really be a strong effort to spare innocent life."
Once Rice heads today to a NATO summit in Brussels, many expect the deadly fighting to resume.
Last week, after Gaza militants unleashed their first concentrated barrage on the Israeli city of Ashkelon, Israel sent hundreds of soldiers into Gaza. More than 110 Palestinians, including 25 children, and two Israeli soldiers were killed before Israel pulled back. Nearly half the Palestinians were killed on Saturday, making it the deadliest day in the conflict in years.