I have read with dismay the letters from those who assume a vote for Sen. Barack Obama is a vote against Israel. I wish your readers to be aware that none other than former ambassador and Middle Eastern expert Dennis Ross has a very different opinion.

Ross served as President Bill Clinton’s Middle East negotiator and President George H.W. Bush’s head of policy planning in the State Department. In a recent letter in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, he wrote, “It is my Middle Eastern hat and my attachment to Israel that ultimately inspires my support for Obama.”

Readers should take special note of this expert’s perspective on the wisdom of negotiation – even with our enemies – and the costs of isolation. Ross writes: “Since the Bush administration would not engage Iran, the Europeans … have not generated the pressure that America in the lead might have produced – and absent that pressure and absent the Iranians being forced to make a choice, Iran will not change its behavior.”

Ross continues, “I was with Obama in Israel and in Europe, and I saw how he focused on the urgency of the Iranian threat…. Obama understands that weak sticks and weak carrots – the current policy – can’t work.

Even more striking was Ross’ lesson on the damage from the failed Republican policies: “Who gained when the Bush administration walked away from peace making for more than six years and then in its last years pursued it incompetently? Hamas, because like all radical Islamists, they gain when there is hopelessness and frustration.”

Ross also notes not only his regional experience and special relationship with Israel but his direct experience with Obama: “I saw first hand [Obama’s] appreciation for Israel’s predicament, its needs, and his instinctive and emotional commitment to the relationship. … I know he understands that neither Israel nor America can afford four more years of Iran and the radical Islamists gaining strategic leverage in the Middle East…. A fixation on Iraq won’t prevent that. But a leader who understands how to use all the elements of American power, revitalize that power and influence, and get others to follow us in order to ensure we win the battle for hearts and minds will be able to do so.”

Readers who assume the Republicans are the better party to protect our military interests are making the same mistake as those who buy into the fantasy that Republicans are better at managing the economy. We need engagement in our diplomacy in the same way it’s been proven we need regulation for corporations and banks.

Ross concludes, “In this election, it is clear to me that Obama is that leader.” Voters should face the reality of the disaster that has been Republican government, and embrace the change we need in all spheres – economic, environmental, defense – by listening to experts such as Ross.