Israel lost a staunch ally and pro-Zionist voice in the international community on Tuesday morning, when Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird (45) made a surprise announcement that he is stepping down from his post and leaving politics after 20 years.
Baird told the House of Commons that he is resigning, saying "the time has come to start a new chapter in my life," reports the Canadian The Star.
"I will miss this place very much," Baird said teary-eyed. Praising the achievements of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government, he said "the world continues to see the best that Canada has to offer."
The foreign minister added that on Monday night he told Harper he would be stepping down; he did not elaborate what he intends to do next, although it is anticipated that he will move on to the private sector.
Harper responded to the resignation saying "it is with great regret and affection that I today accepted the resignation of one of the finest ministers that I have had the privilege of working with, John Baird."
The unexpected move is a serious setback for the Conservative party, which is facing an election later this year against the Liberal party. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who is widely expected to replace Harper in the elections, has slammed joining airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS), and accused Harper of pandering to the Jewish vote.
Baird's term as foreign minister has been marked by strong support for Israel; in his most recent visit to the country last month, Arab dissidents in Ramallah hurled eggs at Baird's motorcade after he met with his Palestinian Authority counterpart Riyad al-Malki.
While meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during that same trip, Baird said "Canada does not stand behind Israel – it stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel."