This paper analyzes the role of legitimization processes in the struggle over farmland protection policies in Israel. In the early sixties a centralized farmland protection program was institutionalized, curtailing private land owners' and leaseholders' property rights on farmlands. The legitimacy accorded to such measures is explained as a function of the congruence between social norms, power structure and dominant ideology at the time. Then, the paper follows the changes in power, ideology, social norms, sanctioned discourse and the role of agriculture in the economy. These changes undermined the basis of the farmland protection rationales, and led to a crisis of legitimacy in the early nineties. As a result of several institutional and policy shifts in the early nineties, a time of rapid growth, concern shifted to the implications of growth for the future of open spaces. This concern over the loss of positive externalities was shared by environmentalists, urban and exurban consumption interests, planners and several elements within the rural establishment. As a result a new set of plans was introduced. Focusing on the central district, where the most severe development pressures are felt, the paper compares the sanctioned discourse and use of rationales in the new plans and documents to those of previous plans. These plans focus on averting the loss of positive externalities, rather than productive capacity, and are couched in economic terms, rather than ideological terms, reflecting the shift in language of the sanctioned discourse. It shows that the choice of rationales for legitimizing countryside conservation reflects the struggle over rural landscapes, as the rationales are used to cobble a coalition of planners, environmentalists, farmers, urbanites and exurbanites, against a powerful development coalition.