His claims to have brought unprecedented calm to northern Israel notwithstanding, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday acknowledged in a stern warning to Beirut that renewed conflict with Lebanon's Hizballah terrorist militia is a real possibility.
Israel, said Olmert, practiced tremendous restraint during the 2006 Second Lebanon War as it did its best to differentiate between Hizballah and Lebanon, and only wage war against the former.
"In the Second Lebanon War we had much greater means and capabilities, which we avoided using since we fought against a terror organization and not a country," Olmert told reporters during a visit to the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command headquarters.
If, however, Lebanon continues down its current path to becoming a Hizballah state, Israel will not restrain itself in the future, the prime minister warned.
Olmert's remarks were seen as a response to Beirut's approval last week of a unity government agreement that guarantees Hizballah's right to remain armed and to violently confront Israel.
The agreement also solidified Hizballah's veto power over all major government decisions, effectively turning Lebanon into a proxy of Hizballah's sponsors in Tehran.
Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni maintain that UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that brought an end to the Second Lebanon War was a great achievement for Israel, and have rejected criticism by those who point out the major points of the truce are being flagrantly violated by Hizballah and the Lebanese government.