If Kassam rockets had been falling in the streets of Tel Aviv, its residents would have taken a keen interest in the recent elections. They would have wanted to know how the current government's policies led to this situation and what the different candidates were saying about how to deal with it. They would have been angry, scared and concerned.

But Kassams a few miles south, on Ashkelon, S'derot and even on the kibbutzim nearby, did not interest most Tel Avivians - or, apparently, Israelis in general - at all. Thirty-eight percent of Israelis didn't see this or any other issue as even worth going to the polls over.

And among those who did vote, 53 out of 120 Knesset seats went to parties - Kadima, Labor and Meretz - that promised more withdrawal and appeasement. Only 32 went to parties - a rump Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and National Union-National Religious Party - that took security more seriously. Eighteen went to parties - Shas and United Torah Judaism - that, while right-leaning in a sociological sense, had a record of being mainly concerned with sectoral issues. The rest of the Jewish vote - seven seats - went to the ostensibly neutral Pensioners Party.

In other words, out of a Knesset of 120, for which only 62 percent of the public voted, only slightly over one-fourth of the seats went to parties that were capable of talking intelligently about security and reacting to real events in the security sphere. For the rest, the post-Disengagement rain of Kassams either was no concern at all or did not discredit the idea of further unilateral withdrawals from even more strategically vital territory.

Nor was there any indication that the Iranian threat played any part in most Israelis' voting calculations. Again, between Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and Benjamin Netanyahu, almost two-fifths of Israelis thought it made no difference who would deal with the threat. The first two candidates had no experience or credentials whatsoever in the security sphere. Peretz has a history as a radical dove and Olmert, in his now-famous "We are tired of fighting" speech in June 2005, had expressed something other than seriousness about security issues.

Netanyahu, in contrast, had published books on terrorism and security and had lectured on the subject to think tanks and to the US Congress. Moreover, in his three years as prime minister, whatever his other achievements and failures, he had reduced terror attacks drastically - from two hundred Israelis killed during four years of Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres to fifty killed during three years of Netanyahu - with the totals then rising drastically again under Ehud Barak and even more under Ariel Sharon. Yet, even among the Israelis who did vote, the totals for Olmert's, Peretz's and Netanyahu's parties were 29, 19 and 12, respectively. The former two were preferred 4-1 over Netanyahu to deal with Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, et al.

Some say Israelis are under-informed about these issues, because the media, closely allied with the oligarchy, under-reports matters like Al-Qaeda's penetration of Gaza and the West Bank, Hizbullah's buildup on the northern border or Hamas's ties with Iran. There is truth to that; no doubt, if the media gave such facts the prominence they deserve, then more Israelis would be concerned about these matters rather than flip and dismissive.

Still, the flip, dismissive attitude is hard to understand considering the horrors Israel has been subjected to in recent years. Just in the last half-year or so, there have been suicide bombings in Be'er Sheva, Hadera, Netanya and Tel Aviv. An ability to connect the dots, to see that A caused B, seems to be lacking. If Rabin and Peres's appeasement of Yasser Arafat led directly to a wave of terror, and Barak's appeasement of him led directly to an even worse one, then why is the conclusion more retreat, more concession, more appeasement?

True, now it's called "Disengagement" or "Convergence" and dressed up as an assertive policy of "setting our own borders." But the election results don't reflect any ability to reasonably assess, or take an interest in, the obviously dire consequences of "disengagement" from Gaza and northern Samaria; consequences that include, of course, not only the Kassams, but also growing terrorist and Iranian encroachment and the election of Hamas. It goes without saying that almost no one cares about the fate of the displaced "settlers" or about the eighty thousand people supposed to be forced out of Judea and Samaria, or thinks about what the Amona debacle might indicate about Olmert's suitability to lead the country.

Seemingly, when one's own and one's children's survival is at issue, one might want to look beyond the leers and interruptions of the TV interviewers and listen to what the hated, vilified interviewee - Netanyahu - is saying, recognizing that this is an intelligent, well-informed person raising important concerns. After all, people who leer and interrupt are usually not the smart ones, not the ones who should influence you. On economic issues, too, one might have wanted to look past the populist put-downs and ask if it was Netanyahu, based on both his ideas and record, or Peretz who was likely to lead Israel into twenty-first-century vitality and productivity.

And one can, if one wants, look a little deeper than the mainstream Israeli media to find out what's really happening on Israel's borders, in the Middle East in general, in Palestinian Authority schools - though it can be unpleasant and scary.

The March 2006 elections have worrisome implications for Israel's viability as a democracy in a violent region. If the same tendencies of shallowness, denial and wishful thinking also endanger the future of the United States and the European democracies, Israel's situation is all the more acute because of its size and location.

One hopes and prays that new Prime Minister Olmert will dig down in himself for some resolve and realism. In the meantime, instead, one sees him planning which Israeli communities to destroy and which land to hand to terrorists.