In 2005, Hamas sought to benefit from 64-year-old Adly Yaish’s popularity in Nablus and backed his list in the municipal election, which then won 74 percent of the vote.
After seven years as mayor, Yaish returned to his family business, but two weeks ago, he announced that he will run for mayor again in the municipal election set for October 8 – this time apparently in partnership with Fatah.
“The Hajj Yaish is loved by the people. He speaks to them in simple words and treats them well,” Ghayyath Jazi, a journalist from Nablus, told The Jerusalem Post
at his office in downtown Nablus this week.
“He always shakes everyone’s hand and helps the poor. The people trust him,” he added.
Muhammad Iyyad, an electronics store owner, also told the Post
that he holds Yaish in high esteem. “He always says hello to everyone and offers to help. He truly represents the highest values in Palestinian society,” Iyyad remarked. “For example, if he ever is passing a hitchhiker, he will always stop and offer him a ride.”
Yaish, who grew up in a religious household in the city’s Rafidiya neighborhood, spent most of his career running a family-owned Mercedes dealership, but has also long played a role in community work, serving as head of the local zakat (Islamic alms) committee and donating money to philanthropic causes.
On a weekday afternoon in his plain office, Yaish told the Post
that he loves his city. “I love Nablus so dearly. I love its hills, its Old City, and its diverse people.”
He said that he decided to run for mayor again after a number of locals encouraged him. “People had come to me and asked me to run for mayor. After some consideration, I announced that I will run and form a list,” he said.
Yaish added that he plans to run on a platform of providing the best services available.
“When I previously served as mayor, I worked on a number of projects related to improving services in terms of electricity, water, and road maintenance,” he said. “I plan to continue to develop these services and specifically work on making sure citizens have clean water.”
Nevertheless, Yaish’s candidacy has caused some controversy within Fatah.
Fatah is aiming to partner with the well-regarded Yaish and has all but officially announced a final agreement with the businessman to support his Nablus for Everyone list.
Amin Maqboul, the secretary-general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, told reporters on Monday that Fatah and Yaish reached a preliminary partnership agreement for a rotating mayorship, in which Yaish would serve for two years, followed by a Fatah member for two years.
Since the announcement, Fatah has seen mixed reactions to its emerging coalition with Yaish.
For its part, the Fatah leadership has said working with independent professionals and particularly Yaish will increase its chances of success in the municipal election.
Meanwhile, some members of the Fatah base believe Yaish is closely connected to Hamas and therefore, not someone with whom their movement should join forces.
Sitting in an office decorated with yellow Fatah posters and pictures of Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Jehad Ramadan, the secretary-general of Fatah in the Nablus Region, told the Post
that Fatah sees great potential in Yaish.
“We are holding very serious discussions with the Hajj Adly Yaish because we are trying to work with list of professionals that can succeed,” he said. “We carried out surveys which indicated that the Nablusian voter prefers professionalism over any other quality. So we can either field a Fatah list or a professional list. And as of now it is our opinion that the latter option has a greater chance of succeeding.”
However, Hakim, a member of the Fatah base, told the Post
that Fatah will be making a grave mistake if it backs Yaish’s list. “I think he is part of Hamas and I do not want my movement to run on the same list as Hamas,” he said.
Hakim added that he is not against cooperating with Hamas, but thinks supporting Yaish’s list is a bridge too far.
“I support partnership and working together, but I want someone from Fatah, not Hamas, to lead me.”
Other Fatah activists have expressed similar opinions on social media. Mahmoud Shtayyeh, a former member of the Fatah Nablus Region Council, did not mince words recently in criticizing the developing partnership between Fatah and Yaish in a Facebook post.
“Fatah cannot disappear behind Adly Yaish and accept the erasure of its history,” he wrote. “Yaish is a founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and a leader of Hamas.”
Yet, Ramadan and other top Fatah leaders believe that Hakim and Shtayyeh are mistaken about Yaish. “Yaish did run with the support of Hamas in 2005, but stated clearly then that he is not a Hamas member, but rather an independent professional.
“He has also said that the PLO is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and Mahmoud Abbas is the leader of the Palestinian people,” Ramadan said.
Meanwhile, Yaish is confident that he will succeed.
“Praise God, I have strong popularity in Nablus and I believe we will win this election.”