Before Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip last summer, opponents of the plan said the move would bring Qassam rockets to Ashkelon and that IDF troops would be back in the Gaza Strip before too long. The prime minister and his supporters called them doomsayers, and promised that Israel would "know how to deal" with such an eventuality.
Here we are three months after the last soldier left Gaza, there are Qassams falling on the outskirts of Ashkelon and the IDF is poised to return to Gaza – if not on the ground, then certainly by air if there is no change soon.
This has not, however, convinced Israelis that we should have stayed in Gaza. The majority makes no connection between relinquishing Netzarim and preventing Qassams, and support for Sharon is sky high - essentially, perhaps only, because he pulled out of Gaza.
It is questionable whether pullout supporters believed the move would stop the Qassams. The right-wing claim was factually correct but entirely irrelevant, despite the fact that people questioned whether or not Israel would "know what to do" with future incidents.
And perhaps one, even further reaching conclusion: The debate about settlements will not be decided with security arguments. The main advertising theme of the settlement camp – that they improve security – won't work any more.
Irrelevant to security
A small story: The IDF alpine unit recently announced it would send a team of alpine fighters to train in the mountains of Turkey. "We've outgrown Mt. Hermon," said a senior IDF official in the know. "Turkey's got terrific, 4,000 meter (13,000 ft) peaks, and it's important for us to have experience with other armies and other terrains."
Sounds reasonable enough. The Israeli and Turkish armies have an excellent working relationship as part of an important strategic alliance, and the alpinists want to get as good as they can – and this includes, presumably, training in higher-altitude training, deeper snow and unfamiliar terrain. The cost of the entire exercise is negligible, in comparison to Israel's overall defense budget.
But all we've got here is Mt. Hermon. That's where the alpine unit will be called to serve in the event of a war. No 4,000 meter peaks, no extra-deep snow.
This analogy extends to many decisions and projects. The IDF wants to be the best army it can; to be ready for any threat, actual or theoretical, with maximum equipment and training.
In the Israeli mentality, in which security is a decisive reason for any decision, there is no alternative cost: From training alpine combat soldiers to Apache Long Bow combat helicopters, military projects are not measured in terms of cost to the economy, but only in terms of the illusion of security they bring us.
We have the "best air force in the world," that makes sonic booms and airdrops leaflets from the Gaza sky; we have a huge, well-resourced ground force, some of which is intended to fight unlikely scenarios (the army itself admits this).
From now on, we know we've got a great alpine fighting unit, one that can even fight at an altitude of 4,000 meters. The fact that there is no 4,000 meter mountain in the area that the unit will be called to defend is irrelevant. It's just not an issue.