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Clinton To Land at Gaza Airport

December 8, 1998

JERUSALEM (AP) _ President Clinton has managed to please both Israel and the Palestinians in the dispute over his arrival at Gaza International Airport.

Palestinian officials said Tuesday that Clinton will land at their newly opened airport. But in a conciliatory gesture toward Israel, Clinton will land by helicopter and not in Air Force One.

The Israelis had complained that a Clinton landing at the Palestinian airport in the Gaza Strip would be tantamount to American approval of Palestinian intentions of independence, something Israel opposes.

On Tuesday, David Bar-Illan, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel would not object to a helicopter landing.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called Clinton’s Dec.14 landing at the Gaza airport ``a historical precedent.″

Clinton arrives Saturday in Jerusalem. His visit was planned as a celebration of the Wye River land-for-security agreement he helped negotiate but has since been marred by bitter disputes and a suspension of the talks called by Israel.

The Palestinians consider the airport, their first gateway to the world, a strong symbol of fledgling independence. It opened last month with great ceremony after more than two years of disputes over security arrangements.

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