Ending a decade-long battle over the fate of Palmahim Beach, the Central District Court rejected a petition earlier this week in which developers requested authorization to construct a disputed resort village on the sands.

“We cannot underestimate the legitimate economic interests of the petitioners, but on the other hand, we cannot ignore the wider interests of the general public,” Judge Jacob Sheinman wrote in his decision.

The fate of Palmahim Beach has been a hot-button issue since 2004, when developers first signed an agreement to build a hotel complex on the site, after the government issued a tender for the project. Environmentalists quickly responded in a fury, slamming the plans as destructive to the unique flora and fauna that characterize the region.

By 2008, environmental advocacy group Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) had joined in the fight, followed by then-environmental protection minister Gilad Erdan. Following a State Comptroller’s Report criticizing the project in 2009 and Erdan’s decision to bring the issue to national attention, the government chose to reevaluate the plans.

In January 2013, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Environmental Protection Ministry submitted detailed plans for transforming the beach into a national park and nature reserve to the Central District Planning and Construction Committee. A month later, the committee decided that it would consider the change if the National Planning and Construction Committee agreed to rezone the land.

Following this decision, the developers slated to build the resort village – Maoz Daniel and the Evelon Group – filed the petition to the Central District Court.

In his ruling, Sheinman stressed how nearly all of Israel’s relevant authorities had come out against the plans, describing the Palmahim coast as “one of the last beaches remaining in a natural state in Israel.”

Those against the plans have stressed how preserving the open space of the beach will benefit members of the public both today and in the future, and that building the resort there could cause “irreparable harm,” the decision read.

While Sheinman rejected the developers’ petition, he did rule that the petitioners will be repaid their NIS 54,000 in court costs.

Amit Bracha, the executive director of Adam Teva V’Din, welcomed the decision, praising the judge for making the interests of the public a priority.

“Now we must ensure that the national committee quickly approves the plan to transform the beach into a national park, ending the ongoing war,” Bracha said.

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