An initial halt to attacks may, however, not see the sides stand their forces down from battle stations immediately; Clinton, who flies to Cairo to see Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi later on Wednesday, spoke of a deal "in the days ahead".
As she arrived in Israel after nightfall, Israel was stepping up its bombardment. Artillery shells and missiles fired from naval gunboats offshore slammed into the territory and air strikes came at a frequency of about one every 10 minutes.
After seven days of hostilities that have killed over 130 Palestinians and five Israelis, two of these on Tuesday, both sides are looking for more than a return to the sporadic calm that has prevailed across the blockaded enclave since Israel ended a much bloodier air and ground offensive four years ago.
Netanyahu, who faces an election in two months that he is, for now, favoured to win, told Clinton he wanted a "long-term" solution. Failing that, Netanyahu made clear, he stood ready to step up the military campaign to silence Hamas's rockets.
Hamas for its part is exploring the opportunities that last year's Arab Spring has given it to enjoy favour from the new Islamist governments of states once ruled by U.S. proteges, and from Sunni Gulf powers keen to woo it away from Shi'ite Iran. It has used longer-range missiles, some sent by Tehran, and hopes to eclipse Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.