Yesterday, with the release of a new statement by Osama bin-Laden, Hamas said that there was a gulf between the al-Qaeda leader's philosophy and theirs. (Although, they accorded him the somewhat jarring honorific, "Sheik bin-Laden" in their statement. The title is usually given to a religious official or to the exalted leader of an Arab family or village.)
Now, in the wake of the three explosions in Egypt, Hamas has been quick to denounce the acts of terrorism, likely resulting in the deaths of many foreign tourists:
The Hamas government said those who carried out the attacks were guilty of a "criminal act which flouts our religion, shakes Palestinian national security and works against Arab interests."That's fairly emphatic language, indicative that Hamas may be ready to soften its hardline position on the existence of Israel and accomplish what the late Yasser Arafat was unable to pull off, the establishment of Palestinian sovereignty.
Hamas is in a good position to do this, analogous to that of Richard Nixon toward the People's Republic of China during his time as President. When Nixon, the hardline anti-Communist, announced that he was going to visit Communist China, a nation with which this country didn't even have formal diplomatic ties at the time, the announcement was hailed by Democrats and Republicans alike.
No Democrat could have pulled off Nixon's diplomatic initiative, simply because the Dems were regarded as "soft on Communism," and hence, apt to "give away the store" in any negotiations with the Beijing regime. Nixon, by contrast, was seen as a guy who would not cave into the Chinese government. Liberal supporters of rapprochement with China could do nothing but applaud Nixon; Republicans trusted him in spite of their suspicions regarding the Maoists.
Among the Palestinians, Hamas is the hardline faction. This frees them to be more conciliatory toward Israel and the West. They appear to be shrewdly, if slowly, exploiting that freedom, with eyes toward full Palestinian nationhood.
[Here is a piece I posted on the explosions that occurred in Egypt last year, analyzed from a religious perspective.]