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State-to-State Cooperation: Oklahoma and Israel












Trade and Population Statistics

Exports to Israel (2023)


      Percentage Change (2022-2023)


      Total Exports to Israel (1996-Present)


Israel’s Trade Partner Rank (2023)


Oklahoma’s Rank as Exporter to Israel (2023) 26
Military Contracts with Israel (2015)


Jewish Population (2023)


      Jewish Percentage of Population



Binational Foundation Grants

Agricultural Research & Development (1979-Present)


Science & Technology (1999-Present)


Industrial Research & Development (1977-Present)


Total Binational Grants



Grant Recipients in Oklahoma From U.S.-Israel Binational Foundations

Acme Engineering Corp.
International Environmental Inc.
Langston University
Limco-Airepair Inc.
Oklahoma State University
The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation
University of Oklahoma
University of Tulsa

Bilateral Institutions

Oklahoma-Israel Exchange - The OKIE was created by Governor David Walters and became an official non-profit organization during the administration of Governor Frank Keating in 1997. Both Governor Brad Henry and incoming (as of December 2010) Governor Mary Fallin is a strong supporter of close ties between the two states. The mission of OKIE is described as “to foster enhanced cooperation between the peoples, governments, and private and public sectors of Oklahoma and Israel in culture, education, agriculture and commerce.”

Anti-Boycott Law

Oklahoma enacted a law in May 2020 requiring state contractors to certify in writing that they are not engaged in “a boycott of goods or services from Israel that constitutes an integral part of business conducted or sought to be conducted with the state.” The bill applies to contracts valued at more than $100,000; it does not apply to agreements with individuals. It also prohibits state entities from adopting policies that have “the effect of inducing or requiring” a boycott of Israel or a person doing business in Israel or its illegal settlements “when such boycott is on the basis of such person’s location in such places.”

Cooperative Agreements

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Oklahoma Government Missions to Israel top

February 2011 - Senator James Inhofe led a group of more than 10 U.S. legislators from six different states on a tour of U.S. military personnel in the Horn of Africa and Israel. In Israel, the group met American and Israeli security officials to discuss collaborative efforts at combatting terrorism and other such threats.

August 2003 - Governor Brad Henry led a delegation that included various senior government officials, Jewish community leaders, and businesspeople from around Oklahoma on a mission geared towards expanding Israel-Oklahoma ties in the fields of finance, agriculture, education, and culture. While there, Gov. Henry met with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and addressed a security and counter-terrorism conference in Tel Aviv.

Partners For Change

The U.S.-Israel relationship is based on the twin pillars of shared values and mutual interests. Given this commonality of interests and beliefs, it should not be surprising that support for Israel is one of the most pronounced and consistent foreign policy values of the American people.

It is more difficult to devise programs that capitalize on the two nations’ shared values than their security interests; nevertheless, such programs do exist. In fact, these SHARED VALUE INITIATIVES cover a broad range of areas, including the environment, science, technology, education, and health. States can benefit from Israeli innovations in these areas as well as through collaboration.

In addition, today’s interdependent global economy requires that trade policy be developed at the national and state level. Many states have recognized the opportunity to realize significant benefits by seeking to increase trade with Israel. Oklahoma is one of 33 states that have cooperative agreements with Israel.

In 2023, Oklahoma exported more than $83 million worth of manufacturing goods to Israel. Since 1996, Oklahoma’s exports to Israel have totaled more than $1 billion, and Israel now ranks as Oklahoma’s 16th leading trade partner. Oklahoma ranks 26th among all states in exports to Israel.

Additionally, in 2015, Oklahoma companies received more than $1 million in foreign military financing (FMF) to provide materiel for the Israeli Defense Forces. Since 1996, Oklahoma companies have received nearly $20 million in FMF. These include Starline Inc. in Bethany, OCV Control Valves in Tulsa, and Overbilt Trailer Co. in Drumright.

Israel is certainly a place where potential business and trade partners can be found. It can also be a source, however, for innovative programs and ideas for addressing problems facing the citizens of Oklahoma.

Israel has developed several pioneering education programs. For example, AICE introduced an innovative Israeli peer tutoring program to North Carolina that educators adapted for use in the United States. Now known as Reading Together, the program is used in 28 states. The program is designed to help students achieve reading fluency and is mostly used for children in second grade. The hope is that with its implementation, increasing numbers of students will perform at grade level or above.

Oklahoma has also received nearly $1.1 million worth of grants from binational U.S.-Israel foundations for joint research in science, agriculture, and the promotion of commercial ventures.

A variety of other exciting approaches to social problems like unemployment, environmental protection, and drug abuse have been successfully implemented in Israel and could be imported for the benefit of Americans.

The potential for greater cooperation with Israel for the benefit of Oklahoma is limited only by the imagination.

Oklahoma Firms Profit From Business With Israel

As the only country with free trade agreements with both the United States and the European community, Israel can act as a bridge for international trade between the United States and Europe. Moreover, because of the deep pool of talent, particularly in high-technology areas, Israel provides excellent investment opportunities. Some of the nation's largest companies, such as IBM, Microsoft, Motorola, Intel, and McDonald’s, have found that it is indeed profitable to do business in Israel.

Many Oklahoma companies have discovered the benefits of doing business in Israel, including Altec Lansing and Kerr-McGee Chemical. One, L.S.B. Industries of Oklahoma City, has a subsidiary in Israel. Senior Vice President Rami Mitzlav said he suggested the company consider operations in Israel in the early 1980’s. “I said that Israel had a pool of talent that could do very good and inexpensive research and development.” The company, which makes parts for air-conditioning equipment, subsequently established an R&D operation in Tel Aviv and later an electronics factory to produce components for its environmental division. Mitzlav said the company is “very happy” with the Israeli connection.

In 1992, Gov. David Walters led a delegation to Israel that resulted in a deal, between shopping cart manufacturer Unarco and Israel’s largest supermarket chain. Now, Oklahoma City-based Unarco sells throughout Israel and, according to recently retired CEO Marvin Weiss, “it has been a very successful venture.”

“We have a very good relationship with Israel,” said Michael McDonnell, Vice President of Marketing for Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp. in Oklahoma City. The company sells chemicals to Israel, including one used for paint and elastics.

Similarly, Ken Williams of Electro-Enterprises in Oklahoma City, said his company has successfully marketed military-style connectors that can be used for aircraft maintenance.

One good way to break into the Israeli market is through a joint venture with an Israeli company. Funding for such projects is available from the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD). The United States and Israel established BIRD in 1977 to fund joint U.S.-Israeli teams in the development and subsequent commercialization of innovative, nondefense technological products from which both the Israeli and American companies can expect to derive benefits commensurate with the investments and risks. Most grant recipients are small businesses involved with software, instrumentation, communications, medical devices, and semiconductors.

Since 1977, the Foundation has approved investments of more than $125 million in more than 1,000 projects in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Hundreds of companies, including AOL, GE, BP Solar, Texas Instruments, and Johnson & Johnson, have benefited from BIRD grants.

Dr. Eli Opper, the former Israeli chair of BIRD, has said that BIRD is a strong pillar of U.S.-Israel industrial cooperation and that the extreme success of BIRD has led Israel to adopt similar models of R&D with other countries.

Oklahoma companies have shared nearly $40,000 in BIRD grants.

Two Oklahoma companies received BIRD grants in the 1980s. It was not until 1995, that another firm took advantage of the opportunity BIRD offers to reduce the risk of new ventures and tap into the deep pool of Israeli talent. That company, Limco-Airepair, was given a grant to develop an environmentally friendly air-conditioning system.

Scientific Innovations

Oklahoma researchers are making scientific breakthroughs and developing cutting-edge technologies in joint projects with Israeli scientists thanks to support from the Binational Science Foundation (BSF). BSF was established in 1972 to promote scientific relations and cooperation between scientists from the United States and Israel. The fund supports collaborative research projects in a wide area of basic and applied scientific fields for peaceful and non-profit purposes.

Since its inception, and in today’s value, BSF has awarded over $700 million to more than 5,000 research projects involving thousands of scientists from more than 400 U.S. institutions located in 46 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Many of these projects have led to important scientific, medical, and technological breakthroughs with wide-ranging practical applications.

BSF-sponsored studies are highly successful in achieving their two main goals: strengthening the US-Israel partnership through science and promoting world-class scientific research for the benefit of the two countries and all mankind. The BSF grants help extend research resources to achieve milestones that might not otherwise be attainable; introduce novel approaches and techniques to lead American researchers in new directions; confirm, clarify and intensify research projects; and provide unmatched access to Israeli equipment, facilities and research results that help speed American scientific advances. BSF has documented no less than 75 new discoveries made possible by its research grants and counts 37 Nobel Prize and 19 Lasker Medical Award laureates among its joint partners.

Oklahoma institutions have received more than $400,000 in BSF grants. 

OSU’s Steven McKeever and his Israeli colleague were among the first to develop a new material to help measure the amount of radiation absorbed by the body. “It is important to have more and more sensitive dosimeters,” McKeever said, “so we can know how much radiation people are exposed to from environmental pollution, and in places like hospitals and nuclear submarines.

“The BSF grant,” he added, “gave me access to material, which at the time was available only in one place besides Israel. It also allowed me to exchange ideas with people who are leaders in the field.

Paul Devlin is a physical chemist at OSU who studies the structure and behavior of icy materials. The research, he said, has important implications for the study of astrophysics. “Ice is also viewed as a catalyst to ozone hole formation,” according to Devlin, “so understanding how molecules react with ice can help explain things like the reaction of freon gas with ozone.”

Devlin’s experimental bent complements his collaborator’s theoretical focus. “Sometimes her ideas lead the research and sometimes mine do. One of the benefits of the BSF grant is it allows us to meet and hammer things out as well as discuss where we’re going.”

Other projects involve basic science research and may have no applications. The University of Oklahoma’s Michael Engel is interested in the alteration of organic material in the earth’s crust. Claims are sometimes made, he said, that the DNA of a dinosaur has been found in a fossil. Engel and his colleague successfully tested a new method for using isotopes to determine if such DNA could indeed be that of the original dinosaur.

“The BSF grant gave me access to samples from the Negev that I wouldn’t have otherwise had,” he said.

Agriculture Benefits

In 1978, the United States and Israel jointly created the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD) to help fund programs between U.S. and Israeli scientists for mutually beneficial, mission-oriented, strategic and applied research into agricultural problems. Since its inception, BARD has awarded more than $130 million to U.S. institutions for 1,352 joint projects. A 40-year review in 2019 involving 20 case studies estimated the foundation’s contribution to the U.S. economy at $2.7 billion. BARD research has resulted in the adoption of approximately 200 new agricultural practices, around 40 commercial engagements, and approximately 100 patents and breeding rights licenses.

Most BARD projects focus on either increasing agricultural productivity, plant and animal health, or food quality and safety and have been influential in creating new technologies in drip irrigation, pesticides, fish farming, livestock, poultry, disease control, and farm equipment. BARD funds projects in 45 states and the District of Columbia and at present is beginning to administer collaborative efforts between Australia, Canada, and Israel as well. It is difficult to break down the impact on a state-by-state basis, but overall, BARD-sponsored research has generated sales of more than $500 million, tax revenues of more than $100 million, and created more than 5,000 American jobs.

Langston University, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, the University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University have received grants worth nearly $700,000.

A major problem for Oklahoma is the infestation of cattle with ticks, which cause production losses and the animals to lose weight. Elsewhere, particularly in Africa, ticks transmit Lyme and other diseases. Ticks are second only to mosquitoes as transmitters of disease to humans No natural means of controlling them exists and the ticks are hard to kill. Oklahoma State’s Katherine Kocan has been working with an Israeli expert on microscopic worms in the soil called nematodes to develop a biocontrol for ticks. Their research has demonstrated that nematodes can kill ticks and this could lead to a means of controlling the pests.

“The BARD grant helped broaden my horizons,” Kocan said. “I’m doing fascinating research with incredibly intelligent, caring people. And the research could lead to the control of parasites that would benefit the world.”

Bill Shelton of the University of Oklahoma is working under his second BARD grant in aquaculture. His first project led to the development of new methods to control the breeding of Tilapia, an important food fish. His most recent research relates to breeding carp. Using genetic engineering, he has been able to enhance and select the color of fish. This is important to the Israeli fish farming industry, which exports ornamental fish like koi.

Though Oklahoma has no aquaculture industry, Shelton says the State benefits because he has an opportunity to interact with international researchers and that helps enhance the university’s prestige. “BARD provides an important mechanism for interacting with colleagues.”

Oklahoma also benefits from BARD research done elsewhere. For example, BARD grantees have done research indicating carbon dioxide may be a non-toxic alternative to pesticides currently used on stored grains like wheat.

Another project identified a type of fungus that protects wheat and increases crop yields. Still another innovative approach involved using dye sensitizers that react with sunlight to break down pesticides used for crops like sorghum. The BARD treatment protects crops and reduces water contamination.

Other Cooperative Programs

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State Contacts

Hillel Campus Profiles

Department of Commerce
900 North Stiles
Oklahoma City, OK 73126-0980
Tel: 405-815-6552
Email: [email protected]
Sherwin Pomerantz, Israel Director
Oklahoma Department of Commerce
Oklahoma-Israel Exchange (OKIE)
c/o Atid EDI Ltd
Building 2, Har Hotzvim
POB 45005
91450 Jerusalem
Tel. 02-571-0199
Fax. 02-571-0713
Email: [email protected]
Oklahoma Israel Exchange
3907 E 79th Street
Tulsa, OK 74136
Tel. 918-492-4770
Fax. 918-491-6704
Email: [email protected]
Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City
710 W. Wilshire Blvd. Ste. C
Oklahoma City, OK 73116-7736
Tel. 405-848-3132
Fax. 405-848-3180
Email. [email protected]
Jewish Federation of Tulsa
2021 East 71st St.
Tulsa, OK 74136
Tel. 918-495-1100
Fax. 918-495-1220
Email. [email protected]

Sources: World Institute for Strategic Economic Research.
Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD).
United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD).
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF).