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Oregon governor defends Israel ties

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The office of Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski defended a trade agreement it signed with Israel.

A coalition of pro-Palestinian groups in Portland criticized Kulongoski, a Democrat, for the Oct. 27 memorandum of understanding "to develop and strengthen economic, industrial, technological and commercial cooperation," according to a release posted Wednesday on the Salem News website by Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, or SUPER.

SUPER and other groups say such agreements are out of place until Israel ends "its occupation of Palestinian lands," ends "the second-class citizenship status of Palestinians," and honors the "’right of return’ of displaced first-generation Palestinian refugees and their descendants."

The last condition is generally seen as a proposal for a binational state that would replace Israel, where Jews would soon become a minority.

In a response to the group, the governor’s office said the agreement "is in the best interest of the people of Oregon. Israel is a strong and democratic friend of Oregon and the United States. This agreement will build on our existing trade relationship with Israel, open up new opportunities to share information and foster commercial ties in areas that are vital to Oregon’s economic future."

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