It has been another tumultuous week for Turkey.
A powerful earthquake rocked popular summer resorts on the west, while a tremor of another kind was beginning to be felt in the corridors of power in Ankara.
The 6.7 magnitude earthquake that rattled Turkey’s Aegean coast mercifully did not cause any casualties or major damage.
Two separate diplomatic crises brewing this week, one with Germany and another with Israel, may prove much more damaging.
The long-running diplomatic spat with Germany has now escalated into a crisis in relations between the two countries, with both sides raising the stakes higher.
With Germany talking about a “re-orientation” of their policy towards Turkey, contemplating economic measures, and Turkey dismissing it all as “populist electioneering”, the tension is not likely to go away soon.
The German government’s recently heightened concerns over human rights abuses in Turkey are expected to increase with the start of the trial of 17 Cumhuriyet journalists and other members of the newspaper’s staff next week.
Further wrangling between the two countries seems to be alienating Turkey from the EU even more. It is no longer just the EU Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn who thinks “Turkey is moving further and further away from European standards”. Even the United Kingdom government, which normally refrains from public criticism of Turkey, has started to express concern at the arrest of human rights defenders in recent weeks.
Internationally or domestically, when the Justice and Development government finds itself in a precarious position, there is nothing like a crisis involving Israel to change the agenda and rally nationalist, Islamist support.
Recent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces over security measures at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, once again provided Mr. Erdogan and his government the much needed distraction from Europe. However, there are plenty of signs that it is going to lead to even greater headaches for Turkey down the road.
Far right, Islamist groups have been targeting two Istanbul synagogues after incitement by the pro-government media. The Turkish authorities’ uncharacteristic tolerance of the protests, despite their clear anti-Semitic and violent nature, has been alarming.
If the deterioration of human rights goes hand in hand with diplomatic isolation, erosion of state institutions seems to bring with it a worrying tendency of poor judgement.
Good governance requires a solid understanding of domestic consequences as well as circumspection and perception in international relations.
This post is also available in: Turkish