Shortly before the New Year, the Obama administration broke with its usual behavior at the United Nations and abstained from a Security Council resolution against Israel’s illegal settlements in Palestinian territory.

By abstaining instead of vetoing the measure, the U.S. effectively allowed it to pass, which raised hackles from Israel’s right-wing government — as well as its defenders in the U.S. Congress, who passed their own resolution condemning the UN vote.

The outcry led U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to give a spirited defense of the Obama administration’s relationship with Israel. Kerry, IPS Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis told MSNBC recently, argued that the Obama administration had been “the most pro-Israeli administration in U.S. history in all the ways that matter.”

The Obama administration, Bennis said, has increased U.S. military aid to Israel to $38 billion over the next 10 years and “protected Israel and Israeli officials in the United Nations,” shielding them from “any real accountability for any violations” of international law. In Israel’s 2009 and 2014 assaults on Gaza, she explained, “when the rest of the world said these are war crimes, the U.S. said no, this is Israel’s right of self-defense.”

Bennis speculated that Kerry’s defense of the White House was directed toward critics “inside the Washington bubble.” But that narrow tailoring, she said, “points to a misreading of public opinion.”

“What Kerry missed,” Bennis explained, “was the fact that most people in the United States these days are not so happy about the idea that the U.S. is providing $38 billion of our tax money to the Israeli military,” or “protecting Israel so uncritically until this one resolution.”

That resolution may have come too late after “25 years of failed U.S. diplomacy” based on “this idea that there is going to be a two-state solution, but with no significant pressure on Israel to make that happen.”

“A lot of people believe that the two-state solution is over and done, it’s dead,” she said. “It’s been killed by settlements. There’s just no land left for a viable Palestinian state.” Meanwhile, Israel has become “an apartheid state where you have one governing authority” but “two separate legal systems depending on whether you’re Jewish or Palestinian.”

Bennis concluded that while the incoming Trump administration is extremely unlikely to press Israel on settlements, significant new actions may come from Europe in light of the Security Council resolution. “By saying in this resolution that all the settlements are illegal, that they have no valid basis, they’re setting the stage for a whole new initiative by Europe,” she said. “That’s what makes it so important.”

Watch the MSNBC clip here.

Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy  Studies.

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