JERUSALEM – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders 11 times in three Mideast cities last week, a diplomatic marathon that produced only promises that the adversaries remain committed to the latest U.S.-led peace initiative.

Clinton couldn’t extract the result she needs: that the two sides end their battle over Jewish construction in the West Bank and move on.

“All of this is complicated,” Clinton conceded at the end of a disappointing week.

The trip’s outcome was a sobering reminder of the challenge Clinton has accepted as the principal player in the Obama administration’s ambitious effort to close a Mideast peace deal in one year.

The secretary of state is stepping into the lead role on what has been a priority for almost every administration in the last 50 years. With the president focused on the U.S. economy, the peace talks offer Clinton the possibility of a dazzling breakthrough, but her efforts also could be derailed by disaster in the treacherous terrain of the Middle East.

As the administration ratchets up expectations, the pressure on Clinton to perform also rises, said David Makovsky, a veteran Mideast analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“The klieg lights are on,” he said.

Clinton took part in meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the debut round, held in Washington on Sept. 2, as well as a second round of negotiations last week.

The fate of continued talks may rest on the outcome of the debate over the partial moratorium. Israel’s 10-month restrictions limiting construction on land it seized in the 1967 Middle East War expires at the end of the month.

The Palestinians want it extended as the two sides seek an agreement on the permanent borders of an independent Palestinian state.

Last week’s meetings ended amid reports of a possible three-month extension, but no agreement.

The Palestinians have said they may quit the talks without an extension, though Abbas appeared to soften that stance as the meetings concluded.

The Obama administration believes that forceful U.S. participation is the ingredient that will lead these talks to succeed where others failed.

As a former senator, lawyer and diplomat, Clinton has experience in several areas that can work in her favor.

Yet there is uncertainty about whether she can step up to a tricky role that requires improvisation, grit and bluster — each employed at the right moments.

Still, she brings the skills of a seasoned politician who understands compromise, which could be used to help Netanyahu and Abbas with their foremost problem: crafting and selling a deal to their wary constituents.

Clinton has known Netanyahu and Abbas for decades, and their relationships have had warm and cool moments.

In March, when Israeli officials embarrassed Vice President Joe Biden by announcing approvals for a new housing project in East Jerusalem while he was there on a goodwill visit, Clinton called Netanyahu to give him a dressing down.

But the openness of their relationship was on display last week, as Clinton and the American-educated Netanyahu poked fun at each other before meetings in the resort city of Sharm el Sheik in Egypt, and later in Jerusalem.

Clinton took heat from some American Jewish leaders over the last year as she demanded Israel acquiesce to a full halt of construction in the West Bank. Yet the former New York senator has generally maintained strong support from the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as American Jewish groups wary of Obama.

Officials also cite Clinton’s benefit of experiencing a series of grinding diplomatic encounters during her 18 months as secretary of state.

However, as a senior Obama administration official said: “Nothing can prepare you completely for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”