That’s an interesting point, Kathryn. The Israeli/Palestinian standoff has always been a big recruiting point but a comparatively low priority for bin Laden. Al Qaeda has been much more focused on taking on the U.S. and the West than the destruction of Israel. There have long been operational ties between al Qaeda and Hamas, but the latter (at least in recent times as it tries to gain some international legitimacy) has portrayed itself as a regional movement dedicated to Palestinian rights and as having no great interest in global jihad.
Hamas wants to maintain that it is a “resistance” movement, not terrorist. That’s why it has made a point recently – at least publicly – of putting some distance between itself and al Qaeda. But Hamas and al Qaeda are both Muslim Brotherhood offshoots, and the Brotherhood offshoots think globally even when they act locally.
When Israel pulled out of Gaza, there was a worrisome influx of suspected Qaeda operatives (when Egypt – oops! – accidentally forgot to police its Gaza border for a while). Al Qaeda has been in the Sinai for a long time (remember, Zawahiri’s organization is Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which he merged into al Qaeda in 1998). Now we have the first signs of concrete plans for specific Qaeda attacks in Israel.