BY WAY OF GETTING to the Nobel Peace prize announced for Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat we begin with a story about a man named Deak Lyman, an aviation writer for The New York Times who received a call from Charles Lindbergh inviting him to New Jersey for an exclusive interview. The two men were friends, which is why Lindbergh told Lyman and Lyman told the world that the Lindbergh family was going into European seclusion. For this, Deak Lyman won the Pulitzer Prize.

It was not quite that simple, of course. There was, as Meyer Berger later wrote, general recognition "that the story had come (Lyman's) way because of the character he had established as a trustworthy newspaperman," but the gist of its is that someone got handed a story and walked off with journalism's highest honor as a result. That's not the way you're supposed to win awards.

This is pretty much the same feeling that hit when it was announced that Sadat and Begin had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. There is something that rings hollow here, something that just doesn't add up. There is a history to these awards, going all the way back to when Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, bequeathed $9 million to endow the awards and the first was awarded in 1901. This is not the way it is supposed to happen.

In the first place, you're supposed to have peace. It's not always essential, given the award in 1973 to Henry Kissinger and Le Duuc Thos of North Vietnam. Tho declined the honor, Kissinger did not, but you have to ask yourself just what peace the Nobel Committee had in mind since it wasn't until April 1975 that peace came to Indochina. It came, not to put too fine a point on it, when we lost and it came a lot later than it could have - thanks, in part, to the efforts of our very own Nobel laureate, Kissinger.

This is not the sort of thing for which you are supposed to get the Nobel Peace prize. The prize is supposed to be awarded to the likes of Ralph Bunche (1950, who worked tirelessly for a peace in the Middle East, or Theodore Roosevelt (1906), who got the Russians and the Japanese to shake hands at Portsmouth. It is for giants of the earth like Martin Luther King (1964), who conducted himself daily with courage, showing what guts it sometimes takes not to fight.

The prize is for men like Albert Schweitzer (1952), the gentle man of the jungle, and for UNICEF (1965), the United Nation's agency that keeps children alive, and for Andre, Sakharov (1976), the Soviet dissident who stays and stays and stays - a living monument to courage and the spirit of mankind. It is for brave ladies like Mairea Corrigan and Betty Williams (1976), the women from Northern Ireland who have tried to end the killing in Northern Ireland and for the like of Dag Hammarskjold (1961), the secretary general of the United Nations whose occupation, if he was asked that on a form, would be seeker of peace. He died in its pursuit.

Now, however, there is something new and it is not only that we have a prize without the peace. It is almost as if the Noble committee thought that the Camp David story was so big it deserved something. It reminds you of the Academy Awards, where there is always something for a really big picture. You can not allow expense to go unrewarded.

But there is something else at work here and it has to do with how the fundamental rules of understanding or whatever you want to call them have been broken. It is like the New York Times-man and his Pulitzer - it is not supposed to happen this way. This is a peace prize and both Sadat and Begin have been men of violence - Begin a terrorist, anathema, even, to many Israelis. Ad for Sadat, he was an army officer and as a national leader it was he who made war upon Israel in 1973, attacking, if you will remember, on Yom Kippur. It is almost as if he turned to peace when war did not work. That's not the way you're supposed to win the prize.

The fact is that neither man is a zealot in the cause of peace. At the moment, for instance, Begin is hardly twisting himself into a pretzel, trying to accommodate himself to Egyptian or even American demands. But what really jars is that these were always the men who had the capacity to make peace, just as they had the capacity to make war - and they have gone from one to the other not from any burning sense of moral commitment or purpose, but because it now suits their purposes. You don't get the Nobel Prize for that sort of thing.

You get on Barbara Walters instead.