In their seminal book published in 1989, Trouble in Utopia, Dan Horowitz and Moshe Lissak, two of Israel's leading scholars, described Israel as an “overburdened polity.” According to them social conflicts and the frustrations of marginal groups have increased to a point where Israeli democracy is in critical danger of “ungovernability,” making it difficult for the system to mobilize material resources and collective normative commitments. While scholars of the Israeli state and society dispute the reasons for societal breakup, as well as its consequences and remedies, there is an overall consensus that relations between national, ethnic, religious, ideological, and cultural groups have become overtly politicized. Israeli society since 1980 has come to accept not only its plurality but also the fact that the existing formal and informal institutions can no longer contain the tensions between groups, but has yet to find agreement on new institutions. The different perceptions of common good and demands for equality and for recognition burden state and society with significant challenges. The contemporary study of Israel, therefore, must first and foremost account for the significant societal changes and their implications for politics and governance.
Israeli society is divided across national, religious, ideological, and ethnic lines; these divisions display not only internal dynamism but also a dynamic relation between them as they constantly affect each other. As a national movement, Zionism has sought to unite all Jews under the umbrella of nation- and state-building projects.