“Oslo” tells the story behind the iconic photo of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasir Arafat shaking hands on the White House lawn in 1993. The new TV movie from HBO dramatizes the top-secret negotiations that led to the historic Oslo Accords, a milestone in the ever-winding road to peace in the Middle East.
The movie is an adaptation of J.T. Rogers’s Tony-winning play of the same name, which centers on the Norweigan couple who brought representatives from Israel and Palestine together for the back-channel meetings that would eventually culminate in the signing of the Oslo Accords, the first formal mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO.
As with any based-on-a-true-story flick, the subjects’ lives are much fuller than a two-hour narrative can afford to flesh out. Before you stream “Oslo,” read up on some of the real people behind the historical drama.
Mona Juul (played by Ruth Wilson)
Half of that couple is Mona Juul, an official in the Norweigan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1993, she got the idea that if a meeting between representatives from Israel and Palestine was simply arranged and mediated, the adversaries could find some kind of common ground. It is unknown whether she actually served them whisky and waffles in between discussions though.
Juul was promoted to the Norwegian ambassador to Israel in 2001. Since 2005 she’s served as deputy director and ambassador in the Norwegian delegation to the United Nations in New York City.
In “Oslo,” she is portrayed by Ruth Wilson, who is best known for her roles in “The Affair” and “Luther.”
Terje Rød-Larsen (played by Andrew Scott)
At the time of the negotiations, Juul’s husband, Terje Rød-Larsen was working at the Fafo Institute, a Norweigan think tank. Over the course of the last 27 years, he continued working with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) before serving as Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories with the United Nations and, lastly, becoming president of the International Peace Institute (IPI), an international think tank.
In October 2020, Rød-Larsen resigned from his post at the IPI after Norweigan media reported that he’d secured a personal loan from none other than Jeffrey Epstein in 2013. It was also reported that the organization had received a total of $650,000 in donations from Epstein’s foundations between 2011 and 2019. In his letter of resignation, Rød-Larsen claimed that the IPI had no knowledge of the 2013 loan and the think tank has denied any payments to Epstein’s organizations, the Associated Press reported.
Rød-Larsen is played by Andrew Scott, who found fame as the Hot Priest from “Fleabag” and the villainous Jim Moriarty on “Sherlock.”
Uri Savir (played by Jeff Wilbusch)
Uri Savir was Israel’s chief negotiator in the Oslo Accords. In his role as director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, he also negotiated with Jordan, Syria and in the multinational peace talks in the Middle East. His experience became the basis for his book “The Process: 1,100 Days that Changed the Middle East,” which was published in 1998. Savir is currently the honorary president of the Shimon Peres Center for Peace.
According to all available photo evidence, the real Savir did not wear the red-tinted sunglasses and “Matrix” black leather threads his character dons in “Oslo.”
Jeff Wilbusch is an Israeli-German actor best known for the Netflix limited series “Unorthodox.”
Ahmed Qurei, also known as Abu Alaa (played by Salim Dau)
After holding a variety of significant positions in the Palestine Liberation Organization, Ahmed Qurei became an instrumental figure in negotiating the Oslo Accords. He also took part in the negotiations with Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000.
Following the resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in 2003, Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat nominated Qurei to take his place. He served a chaotic term as PM from 2003 to 2006, which included briefly resigning in 2004 amid growing chaos on the Gaza Strip and Arafat’s death in the same year. After decades of attempts at peace with the other nation, Qurei blamed Israel for “decapitating” the two-state solution.
Salim Dau has appeared in television series like “Fauda” and “Tyrant” as well as the German film, “Gaza mon amour.”
Hassan Asfour (played by Waleed Zuaiter)
Hassan Asfour was a close aide to Mahmoud Abbas (eventual president of the Palestinian National Authoriy, then-PLO official) when he was appointed by Abbas to participate in the secret negotiations. Afterward, he became a negotiator in the Cairo talks which concluded the Cairo Agreement known as Oslo II. Asfour is now the editor of AMAD, a Palestinian electronic media political site, where he has been critical of the original accords.
Waleed Zuaiter has had a prolific career in both film and television. You may remember him from movies like “20th Century Women,” “The Men Who Stare at Goats” and “Sex and the City 2.” Zuaiter is also an Academy Award-winning producer.
Yair Hirschfeld (played by Doval’e Glickman)
Yair Hirschfeld is one of the Israeli academics that participated in the accords in lieu of official delegates, the other being Ron Pundak (Rotem Keinan). However, much of the progress in the peace process was facilitated by Hirschfeld outside of the meetings arranged by Juul and Rød-Larsen. Accompanied by Pundak, Hirschfeld met with Qurei in secret multiple times before helping to formulate what would become the Declaration of Principles agreed upon in the Oslo Accords.
Also with Pundak, who passed away in 2014, Hirschfeld founded the Economic Cooperation Foundation, which helped establish further relationships with Palestinian leaders.
Doval’e Glickman is an Israeli actor primarily known for the long-running TV series “Shtisel” and the 2013 Israeli film, “Big Bad Wolves.”