airbus plane flying 88.
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In what seems an effort to signal close cooperation with Washington, American Ambassador James Cunningham is expected to fly on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's plane Saturday night as the prime minister heads to his meeting with US President Barack Obama on Monday.
The gesture seems partly designed to dispel media speculation in the past few weeks that the two leaders were headed for an inevitable confrontation.
Former US ambassador Martin Indyk frequently flew with then-prime minister Ehud Barak on his visits to the US. That practice ended, however, with Ariel Sharon's first trip to the US as prime minister in March 2001, when he did not invite Indyk to join him.
Since then the US ambassador has flown only infrequently with the prime minister on his trips to America.
Indyk's successor Dan Kurtzer flew only once with Sharon, and his successor, Richard Jones, is not believed to have ever flown with the prime minister to the US.
Sharon's former spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said that taking the US ambassador on the plane was a way to demonstrate that there was no strain in relationship and "show there is a very good, intimate relationship with the ambassador. When you take the ambassador with you, it means you are in close consultation with the embassy and with the American administration."