National Security Council head and senior adviser to the prime minister, Uzi Arad, on Monday explained that the Palestinians rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's policy speech because they were not expecting an Israeli government to strongly defend the country's vital interests. In an interview with Israel Radio, Arad said that the Palestinians "noticed that previous Israeli governments didn't make any demands or conditions and they had hoped to slowly get more and more concessions from Israel. However, they found out that this government will stand its ground and defend Israeli vital interests." Arad refrained from saying whether Netanyahu considers Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a serious peace partner, but said that after reviewing protocols from previous negotiations, the prime minister came to the conclusion that the Palestinians had continuously rejected Israeli peace offers. "We realized that every time there was a chance to reach an agreement on a certain issue during the negotiations at Annapolis, the Palestinians kept stating more extreme positions, causing the rift between the sides to widen," Arad explained. Arad stressed that Netanyahu was willing to begin peace talks immediately and without preconditions, noting that recognition of the Jewish nature of Israel was not a precondition to peace talks, but an Israeli demand as part of any peace agreement with the Palestinians.